College Baseball: 'Eaters falter again

LONG BEACH — Two of the most reliable arms in the nation this season, not to mention UC Irvine baseball history, weren't enough for the Anteaters against Long Beach State on Thursday.

Junior closer Sam Moore, trying for his NCAA record-tying 24th save of the season, suffered his third blown opportunity in the last three games to put Morales on the hook for a second straight loss that followed a 19-0 start to his two-year Anteaters career.

The loss, the sixth straight in conference play for UCI (35-20, 15-7 in conference), dropped the Anteaters into a second-place tie with the Dirtbags (30-24, 15-7), with two games left in the season-ending series between the Black and Blue rivals.

Morales left leading, 2-1, with two outs in the eighth inning after allowing a one-out single, then a two-out single on his season-high-tying 116th pitch.

Richard Prigatano bounced a single up the middle to greet Moore and tie the game. After Moore plunked Michael Hill with a pitch to load the bases, he walked pinch-hitter Daniel Jackson on four pitches to plate the winning run.

Morales, whom UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said was "spectacular; garden-variety, everyday Morales," was charged with three earned runs on five hits in 7 2/3 innings.

Moore, who had just one blown save in his first 24 opportunities this season, gave way to Mitch Merten, who ended the inning with a strikeout.

Ty Provencher, who surrendered a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Munoz that capped a two-run UCI rally in the eighth that erased a 1-0 deficit, retired the side in order in the ninth to earn the win.

Gillespie, when asked how he might help his closer regain the swagger that placed him among the nation's elite, said he is puzzled about Moore's recent struggles.

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know," Gillespie said. "It's not like we're loaded with choices of what to do. This is, after all, three games in a row of this, so you'd think we'd go to plan B. And we will, as soon as we figure out what plan B is."

Gillespie said his team's increasingly tenuous postseason chances will take care of themselves with wins to close out the season. But he also proposed that the 'Eaters, who missed the postseason the last two seasons after a string of six straight NCAA Regional appearances, should already have their ticket punched.

"What will be truthful or reality and what's right, will be two different things," Gillespie said of the postseason scenario for Big West at-large candidates who will finish behind conference champion Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "This conference should have four different teams in the playoffs. This conference has distinguished itself throughout the year, head-to-head with all the other conferences in the West. And so there can be no debate that there should be four [Big West] teams, not three, in the playoffs. Well, that's what is right, but it doesn't necessarily make the truth. If we are the team that finishes third, or if Long Beach finishes third, either one of us should be in. And not only that, the fourth-place team should be in."

Hall doubled to lead off the Long Beach second inning, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored when third baseman Taylor Sparks bobbled a sharply hit grounder for an error.

Long Beach starter Andrew Rohrbach blanked UCI on four hits through seven innings, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and stranding runners at the corners in the seventh. But with one out in the eighth, consecutive singles by Chris Rabago, Connor Spencer and Sparks tied the score and chased Rohrbach from the game.

Jerry McClanahan was two for three to pace UCI's eight-hit attack and is now eight for his last 15.

Big West Conference

Long Beach State 3, UC Irvine 2


UCI 000 000 020 – 2 8 2

LBSU 010 000 02x – 3 6 0

Morales, Moore (8), Merten (8) and McClanahan; Rohrbach, Provencher (8) and Hutting. W – Provencher, 4-5. L – Morales, 9-2. 2B – Hill (LB).

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