Photos Courtesy of David Cohen.
With a pair of teams entering on five-game winning streaks and a pair of aces on the mound, a close contest was expected, but a back-and-forth extra inning affair assured the UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge fans got their money’s worth Friday Night at Anteater Ballpark.
Taylor Sparks’ 11th inning walk-off single gave Irvine a 4-3 win, but it only came after Northridge tied the game in the eighth inning, escaped jams in the eighth and ninth, took a 10th inning lead only to give the run back and have to get out of another Anteaters threat.
Lost in the excitement of the late-inning dramatics was the starting pitcher matchup of Irvine junior Andrew Thurman and Northridge sophomore lefty Jerry Keel. Keel didn’t have his best stuff and was chased from the game in the sixth inning. He allowed eight hits and a walk, but managed to limit the damage to two runs.
Against Thurman that two runs looked to be too much, especially after he cruised through the Matadors lineup the first three innings. CSUN got a run back in the fourth inning when Josh Goossen-Brown hit a two-out single to bring home Michael Livingston, who had led off the inning with a double.
Thurman racked up five of his nine strikeouts in the next three frames, but Livingston got to him again in the eighth inning. This time for an RBI single after Kyle Ferramola led off the inning with a double. A pair of walks from Thurman and reliever Andrew Morales loaded the bases, but Morales was able to get a groundout to end the inning.
The ‘Eaters got a runner to third in the bottom half of the eighth inning and put two men on in the ninth, but were unable to scrape across a run.
Both teams went through a gamut of highs and lows in the 10th inning. Nicolas Osuna reached on a Sparks’ throwing error and came around to score on a Kyle Attl double, but Irvine responded. Ronnie Shaeffer hit a leadoff double and an error fielding a sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners.
Attl made a diving snag of a line drive to keep the game tied, but on the next play, the Anteaters put the runner in motion. Jerry McClanahan grounded to short on what would have been an easy 6-4-3 game-ending double play, but with the hit and run on, Attl couldn’t turn two and the tying run scored. Goossen-Brown induced a fly ball to strand a runner in scoring position, but it just delayed the inevitable.
In the 11th inning, reliever Brycen Rutherford walked Connor Spencer and allowed him to move into scoring position on a wild pitch. As he has done all season, Sparks came through in the clutch, delivering a soft single into right field that Spencer came around to score the winning run on.
Sparks finished with three hits and two RBI. Dominique Taylor and Scott Gottschling both had a pair of hits while Livingston and Ferramola both had multi-hit games for Northridge.
Check out the 20-shot photo gallery from Friday night’s series opener by David Cohen of BHE Photos: