Kevin Contreras, Assistant Sports Editor
UCR’s baseball team began their four-game series against UC Santa Barbara this Friday evening, May 21, taking place under the Riverside sunset in the Riverside Sports Complex.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Zach Jacobs opened the game for the Highlanders from the mound. His pitching led to two outs back-to-back against the first two hitters from the Gauchos. Third up to bat for Santa Barbara, freshman Zach Rodriguez, managed to reach first base. Sophomore Christain Kirtley was next up, managing to find the ball and hit it far enough for Rodriguez to open the scoreboard for the Gauchos. Riverside got the third out shortly thereafter to head into the bottom of the first. Sophomore Michael Mcgreevy was the opening pitcher for Santa Barbara. Bohal was first up to bat and managed to get to first. A hit from Orick down the middle left him on first and Bohall on third, two outs on the board. Bohall charged toward home to get a point, but the Gauchos got another out before he reached home.
Going into the second inning, Gaucho freshman Jason Willow managed to hit the ball deep out toward left field, which allowed him to reach second base. Willow managed to steal third base, and Mason Eng managed to drive the ball up the middle. This gave Willow enough time to reach home base, putting Santa Barbara 2-0 and giving them their third out shortly after. The bottom of the second was largely uneventful for the Highlanders as they quickly transitioned to the third inning.
In the third inning, redshirt sophomore Cole Cummings extended the Gaucho’s lead to 3-0 after a ball being thrown toward third base flies a little too high, allowing Cummings to reach home and the third out being postponed. Senior McClain O’Connor found Jacob’s pitch, batting a triple toward center field. He managed to score, putting the Gauchos up 4-0 over the Highlanders. UCR did their best to put themselves on the board. Each of them managed to hit the ball off of Willow’s pitches but were ultimately unable to seal the deal.
The Highlanders managed to slow down Santa Barbara in the fourth inning, as they were unable to score. In the bottom of the fourth, things seemed to turn around for the Highlanders. Freshman Anthony Mata hit the ball toward left field, an error on first base gave him enough time to reach second. Jacob Shanks followed him, hitting a single which brough Mata home and put UCR on the board 4-1. Redshirt junior Cole Pofek was next in the line-up, grounding the ball toward first base. Shanks moved to third base, putting him in a position to score. Redshirt freshman Joey Nicolai brought Shanks home with a flyball. The score was now 4-2 with two outs on the board. The Highlanders gave up the third out shortly after.
Early in the fifth inning, there was a sense of deja vu. Rodriguez managed to get onto the bases, and Kirtley brought him home shortly after putting them up 5-2. Kirtley managed to reach second base, as he awaited to be brought home by redshirt sophomore Broc Mortensen. Mortensen hit a home run out toward right field, giving Santa Barbara two more points, 7-2. The Highlanders managed to strike out the Gauchos, leading them into the bottom of the fifth. Redshirt senior Travis Bohall was first up to the plate, hitting a single. Redshirt sophomore Eli Stuart was next up to bat, sacrificing his own run to let Bohall reach first. Redshirt Junior Dylan Orick batted another single, and two mishandled throws from the Gauchos helped Bohall come home, putting the Highlanders on the board again 7-3.
The game was essentially over after the fifth inning as neither of the two teams managed to score again.The Highlanders ended the game down 7-3. The Highlanders tried to put some points on the board the next day during their double header matchup. Unfortunately, they lost both games: 14-3 the first game and 12-0 the second game.
“We have not had a good weekend, we have not played as well as I expected us to… (We’ll) continue to work hard and develop. We need to improve as individual players and as a team everyday. We start multiple freshmen in every game and they have continued to compete and improve throughout the year which is promising for the future,” said Interim Head Coach Justin Johnson.