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UC Irvine baseball blanked by first-place UCSB in series opener

IRVINE — UC Irvine got its first look at the team that has dominated Big West Conference baseball in 2022, and like most teams were duly impressed.

No. 25 UC Santa Barbara improved to 32-10 overall and 20-2 in conference play with a 2-0 victory over the Anteaters on Friday night at Cicerone Field, Gaucho ace Cory Lewis and reliever Matt Ager combining for a two-hitter.

Lewis improved to 7-0 and lowered his ERA under 3.00 by throwing seven good innings, allowing just one hit while walking four and striking out five. He wasn’t overpowering as much as efficient against a UCI team that has been struggling to score runs.

The Anteaters (25-18, 10-9) didn’t have many quality at-bats. They had one hit until adding a second in the ninth.

“They’re a very good team, as their record indicates,” UCI coach Bern Orloff said. “Lewis pitched to his stats all season, a few walks, no hits.”

The first four innings were a pitchers’ duel between the Anteaters’ Nick Pinto and Lewis, each throwing four scoreless innings.

UCSB broke through in the fifth with some small ball and long ball. With one out, Jordan Sprinkle singled to left and promptly stole second base. On a 3-and-2 pitch to Kyle Johnson, Sprinkle stole third as Johnson took ball four. Sprinkle has 20 steals in 24 attempts this season.

Jason Willow hit a fly ball to center to score Sprinkle. Right-handed hitter Aaron Parker then pinch-hit for lefty Blake Klassen, getting the edge against lefty Pinto. Parker slugged a 2-and-1 pitch to the wall in center field, a few feet away from a home run, Parker settling for a triple as Johnson scored to make it 2-0.

UCI finally got a hit in the fourth, Caden Kendle hitting a triple to center with two outs.

Pinto (1-5) pitched well, working out of trouble except for the fifth.

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