IRVINE — UC Irvine senior Sean Madigan bounced a line drive off an indecisive center fielder to help the Anteaters bounce back for a 3-0 nonconference victory over visiting Pepperdine on Wednesday night.
Down the entire game, UCI scored four runs with two outs in the eighth to salvage a feel-good win and improve to 29-12.
Madigan's liner, with the bases loaded and the Anteaters trailing, 4-2, skipped off Brian Humphries, who made a late charge as it was sinking in front of him.
Had he been less aggressive, he likely would have fielded it on a hop, allowing only two runs to score.
As the ball caromed away toward right-center field, D.J. Crumlich scored from first with what proved to be the winning run.
"[Pepperdine reliever Eric Karch] hadn't thrown that off-speed pitch yet and I knew it was coming one time," Madigan said of the 2-2 offering. "I saw it out of his hand and it was up. It might have been ball four, but I knew I couldn't put the game in the hands of the umpire. So, I tried to get on top, stay up the middle and … here we go."
Junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer singled with two outs to start the winning rally.
Sophomore Scott Gottschling followed with a single and junior second baseman Tommy Reyes bounced a 3-1 pitch up the middle for an RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Crumlich, a junior shortstop, worked a nine-pitch walk, after fouling off a pair of two-strike pitches, to load the bases. And set the stage for Madigan.
"First of all, Crumlich," Madigan said. "Just like when [Drew] Hillman hit that walk-off a week or so ago [against San Diego], it was [Brian] Hernandez's at-bat [a two-out single] that got him to the plate. The way that D.J. worked that walk, nine pitches, it was definitely a great at-bat to get it to me."
A crowd that had been unusually quiet for the first seven-plus innings, finally erupted with Madigan on second base.
"It's a great feeling," Madigan said of his clutch double. "There's nothing like it."
Hernandez worked a perfect ninth to secure his ninth save and preserve a win for freshman reliever Jimmy Litchfield, who got the final two outs of the eighth, after entering with one out and a runner on third base.
UCI, ranked No. 17 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Assn., used seven pitchers, five of whom provided scoreless relief stints.
But Pepperdine (18-21) scored two in the second and two in the sixth to take a 4-1 advantage as sophomore Alex Najera limited the 'Eaters to two hits and just one run in 6 2/3 innings, despite issuing seven walks. Najera, who came in 0-3 with a 4.93 earned-run average, was pulled in the eighth after his third and final strikeout. He threw 108 pitches.
UCI, which finished with seven hits, one more than the Waves, scored a run in the fourth on an RBI groundout by junior center fielder Christian Ramirez. Madigan was two for three with two walks to lead the UCI offense.
Junior Crosby Slaught worked three hitless innings of shutout relief. The only Wave to reach against him did so via an error, one of two Anteater miscues.
Andy Lines and Drew Sandler also contributed shutout relief as Karch absorbed the loss to fall to 4-4.
UC Irvine 5, Pepperdine 4
Pep 020 002 000 – 4 6 1
UCI 000 100 04x – 5 7 2
Najera, McIlhenny (7), Karch (8) and Diedrich; Hooper, Slaught (3), Hoover (6), Lines (6), Sandler (7), Litchfield (8), Hernandez (9) and Shaeffer. W – Litchfield 2-0. L – Karch, 4-4. Sv – Hernandez (9). 2B – Silverstein (P), Meyer (P), Madigan, (UCI). 3B – Johnson (P).