UC Irvine rallies late to beat Texas, 3-1, in CWS opener

UC Irvine rallies late to beat Texas, 3-1, in CWS opener
UC Irvine's Taylor Sparks slides in safely to third base as Texas' Zane Gurwitz fields the throw with a run-scoring triple in the eighth inning on Saturday in a College World Series opener. (Dave Weaver / Associated Press)

Taylor Sparks hit his nation-leading ninth triple of the season to fuel UC Irvine's three-run eighth inning Saturday in the Anteaters' 3-1 victory over Texas in the opening game of the College World Series.

The Anteaters were scoreless for seven innings before they broke through against Texas starter Nathan Thornhill (8-3) and reliever John Curtiss.


One of the last four teams selected for the NCAA tournament, UC Irvine (41-23) continued to amaze during a postseason run in which it knocked off national No. 1-seeded Oregon State and swept a super regional at Oklahoma State.

The Anteaters advanced to a winner's game Monday against Vanderbilt. The Longhorns play Louisville.

Evan Brock (9-6) earned the win, pitching 21/3 innings of no-hit relief and striking out the side in the ninth.

Texas scored its only run in the second inning on a squeeze play, and Thornhill hummed along in the middle innings after working out of early trouble.

The Anteaters stranded runners in scoring position each of the first four innings, leaving a man at third base three times, and then had only one man reach base until the eighth.

Thornhill, a 13th-round draft pick of the Phillies, gave up only three runs over 37 innings in six starts before Sparks' drove a ball into a 35-mph wind that landed on the fringe of the warning track in left-center field. It was his third hit of the game.

Curtiss came on, and Chris Rabago drilled his first pitch up the middle to score Sparks. Jonathan Munoz added a run-scoring single for a two-run lead.

UC Irvine starter Andrew Morales, a second-round pick of the Cardinals, gave up six hits over six innings, surrendering Texas' only run in the second. Collin Shaw doubled to lead off the inning and later scored on Zane Gurwitz's bunt single.

The Longhorns had ample opportunity to pad their early lead, but they stranded 10 runners through five innings, eight of them in scoring position.

Texas is making its record 35th CWS appearance, with 75-year-old Coach Augie Garrido trying to win a national title in a fifth decade. He won championships with Cal State Fullerton in 1979, 1984 and 1995 and with Texas in 2002 and 2005.

UC Irvine barely made the tournament after losing eight of nine to end the regular season. But the Anteaters, in the CWS for the second time, are now in position to make a run at giving 74-year-old Mike Gillespie his second national title. He won his first in 1998 at USC.

Vanderbilt 5, Louisville 3:

Dansby Swanson doubled in two runs and Adam Ravenelle pitched 21/3 innings of shutout relief for the Commodores.

It was a grinding, three-hour, 40-minute game that saw Louisville issue nine walks, its third-most of the season. One of the Cardinals' two wild pitches produced a Vanderbilt run.


Another run, and a big one, came home on a passed ball after the Commodores saw their 4-0 lead shrink to 4-3 in the seventh. It looked as if catcher Kyle Gibson was setting up for a pitch-out, but reliever Kyle McGrath pitched to the plate and Gibson let the ball get past him, allowing Vince Conde to score.