College Baseball: 'Eaters falter in clutch

IRVINE — There is a difference between missed opportunities and blown opportunities. And, based on the decibel level of UC Irvine baseball coach Mike Gillespie's postgame address to his players, the latter had more to do with the Anteaters' 2-1 Big West Conference loss to visiting Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

It was the Matadors' first win at Anteater Ballpark since 2005, as they had lost 10 straight at UCI.

UCI (22-9, 4-4 in conference), which is now 11-7 in games decided by two or fewer runs, failed to get a hit in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The most glaring failure to execute came in the second inning, after a hit batter, a Scott Gottschling single and a successful sacrifice bunt by Mikey Duarte put runners on second and third with one out.

Kris Paulino then flied out to medium left field. And though Matador outfielder Kyle Ferramola threw to third base, in essence conceding a run had Jerry McClanahan tagged up, McClanahan was held by third-base coach Pat Shine.

Gillespie, however, had no quibble with Shine's decision. Rather, he lamented Paulino's inability to hit a ground ball to the middle infielders that were playing back to concede the run.

Chris Rabago followed with a groundout to the pitcher and Cal State Northridge (19-16, 5-3) converted the momentum to tie the score in the top of the third. The visitors parlayed three singles into a run off UCI starting pitcher Matt Whitehouse, who battled valiantly without his best velocity, Gillespie said.

The Matadors led off the fourth and fifth innings with doubles, but Whitehouse left both stranded at third. He induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the fifth.

Whitehouse, who fell to 3-3, left two more runners stranded in the sixth, but couldn't dodge a leadoff triple in the seventh by Michael Najera. Najera scored on a single by Michael Livingston to give Northridge starter Calvin Copping his third win in six decisions.

Whitehouse finished with eight strikeouts, while walking two.

Copping allowed seven hits and no walks in 7 2/3 innings. DJ Milam recorded the final four outs for his first save.

Sam Moore pitched three shutout relief innings for UCI, allowing two hits, striking out one and walking one.

Sophomore third baseman Taylor Sparks went two for four to lead the hosts, for whom five other players had singles.

UCI scored in the first when Connor Spencer singled with two outs, went to second on a wild pitch, went to third on Sparks' single, then came home on a wild pitch.

Back-to-back singles by Rabago and Sparks put runners at first and second with one out in the fifth for UCI. But a fielder's choice and a groundout to the shortstop ended the threat.

"[Copping] pitched well and it was a good ballgame if you were the winner," Gillespie said. "We missed some chances and we had some things that just weren't done right."

The two teams play the rubber game of the three-game series on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

Big West Conference

Cal State Northridge 2, UC Irvine 1


CSUN 001 000 100 – 2 11 0

UCI 100 000 000 – 1 7 1

Copping, Milam (8) and Mercado; Whitehouse, Moore (7) and McClanahan. W – Copping, 3-3. L – Whitehouse, 3-3. Sv – Milam (1). 2B – Mercado (CSUN), Najera (CSUN). 3B – Najera (CSUN).

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