This past Saturday afternoon, the Riverside baseball team started off the season with a match up against UCR’s alumni team for their annual event. The young and talented team for UCR was unable to defeat the alumni squad, who were able to win 7-4. Despite the loss, there is still an upside for the young Riverside team.
Coach Doug Smith’s current Highlander team started off with two strikeouts but Clayton Prestridge was able to get on base. Riverside struck first blood as David Andriese doubled to right field for an RBI, scoring Prestridge for a 1-0 lead.
Top of the 3rd inning was all alumni as a double by one of their players drove in a teammate to tie the game at 1-1. After three innings of play, the alumni team already had five hits with a 2-1 lead. Number four Phil Holinsworth for Riverside drilled a hit down the third baseline in what looked like a base hit but number 36 of the alumni dove to snatch the ball. He hopped up and gunned the ball to throw out Holinsworth at first.
Prestridge doubled to left field and he was able to score on a double by Andriese to put UCR down 2-3. UCR had a chance to score with a play on third but was unable to execute and left the man stranded. Tony Nix for the alumni team homered to deep left, giving the alumni a 4-2 lead. UCR had a collapse as it allowed three more runs from the alumni, 7-2, then Chase Puente came to the Highlanders’ rescue. Puente came up the bat and was able to drill a two-shot homer to put his team down 7-4, but the offense for Riverside was not enough for a comeback victory.
Although Riverside was unable to beat the alumni team, there are great hopes for the squad. One player of the alumni, Tony Nix, was asked about how he felt about the community and the type of family that Riverside has brought to the players. “It is fun to get out here and play, it is like our own fraternity, our own family out here,” he said. “It’s fun to get out here to be back with the guys”
Marc Rzepczynski, who now plays on for St. Louis Cardinals, has won a World Series and played for the alumni team on Saturday. He was asked about the alumni team and about how most Riverside teams don’t have something like this. “It is just one those things we do every year. It is fun to see all the guys you don’t get to see throughout the year.”
When asked about the transition from college to the MLB, he said, “You don’t have to worry about class but the grind of the season, seven months and eight months if you make the playoffs.”
Marc later was asked about the team’s expectations this year. “They look young,” he said. “Coach put together a good talented team and they will come together.”
Rzepczynski was then asked about being a World Series champion, “It was a long life dream to pitch in the World Series. It hasn’t all set in but I fulfilled a long life dream.”
David Andriese was also asked about the expectations of the UC Riverside team. “We have things to work on,” he said. “We are young and we are getting our feet wet. This game was a good experience” He talked about the returning players and the new players on the squad and they are expected to finish 5th place in the conference. “Even though we are young and expected to finish fifth we expect to play well.”
UCR will play on Feb. 17 in a two-game series against Brigham Young at the Riverside Sports Complex.