The UC Riverside baseball team opened up the 2018-2019 season amidst rainy conditions on Friday, Feb.15, as they began a four-game series against the University of Nebraska.
Head coach Troy Percival reconnected with former Angels teammates Darin Erstad and Adam Kennedy, as well as former manager Mike Scioscia on Saturday. The four of them were all a part of the 2002 Angels team that won the World Series. Erstad, who has been coaching the Cornhuskers since 2011, brings his team to Riverside for the first time in the series. The two teams have played in two series before, while the record between the two coaches is tied at 2-2, with both teams splitting the past couple of matchups.
Game 1: UC Riverside 6 – Nebraska 21
Believe it or not, this game was actually close throughout the first six innings. Nebraska piled on 18 runs over the final three innings to pull away and wallop the Highlanders to open up the first game of the series.
Junior Hayden Petrovick took to the mound for his first career start for UCR after transferring from Citrus College. The lefty pitcher started the first inning well, in due part to throwing a variety of pitches to keep Nebraska hitters honest. But the Cornhuskers worked Petrovick and squeezed over 50 pitches out of him in just two innings alone.
The transfer finished the game with seven strikeouts, throwing for four innings and allowing three runs on four hits. Because of his early exit, Percival relied on six more pitchers to finish Friday’s contest. Senior Jared Noonan gave up three runs and recorded one out, while junior Cole Tucker allowed four runs and got two outs in the process.
Riverside capitalized on some Nebraska errors in the third and fourth to take a 5-3 lead. The home team scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the third, along with three more in the fourth off of two Nebraska blunders.
Sophomore third baseman Nathan Webb went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and sophomore right fielder Dylan Orick went 2-for-5 and an RBI.
The Cornhuskers trailed 5-3 heading into the seventh and quickly erased the Highlander lead by ushering in six runs with two outs in the inning. The runs kept piling on from here, as seven more runs were scored in the eighth and five more were added in the ninth.
Nebraska’s Jaxon Hallmark recorded five RBIs and scored two runs, going 4-for-5 for a career night as 10 Huskers put up at least one hit.
Game 2: UC Riverside 10 – Nebraska 9
Junior Riley Ohl got the start for the first game of a double-header on Saturday, with his team’s offense backing him greatly to start. The Highlanders put up four runs in the first inning, thanks to four straight singles that included a two-run single by senior Dean Miller.
UCR ran in three more runs in the fourth inning, with two of those runs being unearned off of errors by Nebraska’s third baseman and pitcher.
The visitors were in prime position to tie the ball game as they were down 7-4 in the sixth inning with runners on second and third. Nebraska’s Aaron Palensky smacked a ball into left field that appeared to be double, but sophomore Cole Pofek showed his vertical and made a great grab at the ball to thwart any chances of scoring in the inning.
But the Cornhuskers stayed in it and although they were trailing 8-7 in the eighth inning, Nebraska led off with a walk followed by a double that ricocheted off the left field wall. Noonan allowed an RBI single after a strikeout, then followed it up with a 4-6-3 double play.
Contrasting Friday’s nightmare, the Highlanders were able to preserve their starter as Ohl pitched through five innings. The junior struck out four batters and walked three of them, while allowing three runs on seven hits, as Riverside walked away with a 10-9 victory.
Game 3: UC Riverside 6 – Nebraska 10
Junior pitcher Shamus Lyons made his first career start for the Highlanders, pitching through 5 2/3 innings and giving up four runs on six hits. Lyons also allowed three walks but was able to strike out five batters in the loss.
After four scoreless innings, Nebraska got on board with six runs scored total throughout the sixth and eighth inning. Half of these runs allowed were off errors.
Sophomore Ari Gerber went 2-for-4 on the day, as junior Nick Kafer and sophomore Nathan Webb both recorded two hits. In all, seven different Highlanders recorded at least one hit throughout.
Game 4: UC Riverside 1 – Nebraska 7
With a taxed bullpen and leaving seven total runners on base for the game, UC Riverside didn’t exactly have the numbers working their favor for Sunday’s game.
Sophomore Jeremiah Priddy earned the start for the already-taxed Highlander bullpen and pitched the longest of any starter in the series, going 6 1/3 innings and allowing four runs off seven hits. The Corona native also struck out seven batters throughout.
Whether nerves kicked in or the Cornhuskers were just hot, Priddy allowed three straight singles with one out in the first inning. But he was able to recover and struck out Nebraska’s Jaxon Hallmark with two outs and runners on second and third.
The Highlander offense had plenty of opportunities to score in the game, but failed to capitalize. Riverside loaded up the bases with no outs in the very first inning, but lucked out as Webb lined into a double play. They still had a chance as Kafer was sitting on third with Cole Pofek up at the plate, but Pofek also lined out to second base to end the inning.
Another opportunity presented itself in the second inning with Taylor Yeager on third and Damien Sanchez stealing second base. Kafer singled in the first inning and was hoping to pull in at least one run this inning, but struck out swinging on a full count to end the second.
The lone run for the Highlanders came in the bottom of the ninth as Orick singled up the middle and then advanced to third off a balk, eventually reaching home as freshman catcher Alec Arnone singled out to left field.
On the series, the freshman started three of the four games and recorded five hits for a double and two RBIs.
UCR stays at home and will host Loyola Marymount University Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Riverside Sports Complex.