By: Hansel Chu, Assistant Sports Editor

The UC Riverside baseball team lost in a crushing 8-9 game against UC Santa Barbara Friday night at Santa Barbara. Going into this game, the Highlanders sat in last place in the Big West Conference standings while the Gauchos sat comfortably in first place. UCR looked to get an improbable win and finish the regular season strong.

via Courtesy of UCR Athletics

In the bottom of the first inning, UCSB was able to get on the scoreboard first with a sacrifice flyout from first baseman Kyle Johnson which sent third baseman Bryce Willits home. In the top of the third inning, a double from sophomore infielder Andrew McFarland put the Highlanders in scoring position. Soon later, a double down the right-field line from freshman center fielder Jacob Badawi sent McFarland to the home plate and tied the game 1-1. After a strikeout from the pitcher Cory Lewis, a single into the right-field from redshirt junior Jacob Shanks sent two runners home and put UC Riverside in the lead 3-1. A popout from redshirt senior designated hitter Dylan Orick ended a successful inning for UCR.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, UC Santa Barbara responded with a triple into the right-center from shortstop Jacob Sprinkle, which sent two runners home and tied the game 3-3. In the top of the fifth inning, UC Riverside answered back with a three-run inning to regain the lead, 6-3. A double to right-center from freshman left fielder Andrew Rivas sent Badawi and McFarland to the home plate and gave the Highlanders the lead, 5-3. A bunt from Shanks advanced Rivas to third base with a chance to add another run to the inning. Orick delivered for UCR as he hit a single into right field to send Rivas home and bring the score to 6-3. Sophomore pitcher Eric Marrujo retired three straight batters to end the fifth inning.

In the top of the seventh inning, UCR was able to score another run due to a couple of walks from the Gaucho bullpen. Four consecutive walks from the Gaucho bullpen led to an earned run and extended the lead 7-3 for the Highlanders. UCSB was able to inch a bit closer in the bottom of the seventh inning as a single up the middle from designated hitter Blake Klassen brought in a run for the Gauchos and brought the score to 7-4 going into the eighth inning. UC Riverside was able to tag in another run in the top of the eighth inning. With runners on first and second base, Shanks was able to sling a single into left field to bring the score to 8-4. With the bases loaded and two outs on the board, UCR threatened to score more runs.

However, a groundout from sophomore shortstop Anthony Mata retired the inning for the Highlanders. In the bottom of the eighth inning, UC Santa Barbara closed the deficit with a two-run inning. With runners on second and third base, the Gauchos looked to score with one out on the board. A sacrifice foul out led right fielder Broc Mortensen to race toward home plate and bring the score to 8-5. Soon after, a base hit down the infield line from left fielder Christian Kirtley led to another run for the Gauchos and the deficit narrowed to 8-6 going to the last inning.

The Highlanders were unable to do anything in the top of the ninth inning as they went three up, three down. It was up to junior pitcher Sergio Ramirez to save the game for UCR. However, Ramirez was unable to get the job done. With runners on second and third base, Ramirez walked Mortensen to have the bases loaded for the Gauchos with one out. Sophomore pitcher Kyle Anderson came in for Ramirez to save the game. However, Anderson walked Kirtley to bring in a run for UCSB and the score was brought to 8-7. An error from redshirt freshman first baseman Joey Nicolai gave UC Santa Barbara an unearned run and tied the game at 8-8. Sprinkle went up to bat looking to give the Gauchos a walk-off hit. A flyout from Sprinkle toward center field sent Mortensen racing home. The throw toward the home plate did not reach in time and Mortensen was able to reach the home plate for an unearned run and give UCSB the comeback victory 8-9. 

Marrujo finished the game with three strikeouts and allowed two earned runs and four hits in 6.0 innings pitched. Shanks led the Highlanders at-bat with 3 RBI in three hits. Rivas contributed with an RBI double with one hit and brought in two runs. Badawi also chipped in with an RBI single in two hits and also brought in two runs. 

The Highlanders drop to 8-40 (4-24) and will have their last series of the season at crosstown rival Cal Baptist University next week from May 26th to May 28th.