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UC Irvine baseball shakes off slow start, beats Cal State Fullerton

FULLERTON — It was a wild Friday night at Goodwin Field. But only UC Irvine enjoyed the outcome.

The Anteaters rallied from a three-run first-inning deficit to earn a 7-3 victory over Cal State Fullerton that evened their three-game Big West Conference series going into Saturday’s season finale.

Fullerton pitchers endured a rough night, with eight walks, six wild pitches, one passed ball and four hit batters, giving UCI (32-23 overall, 16-13 Big West) all the chances it needed to climb out of the early hole.

Shortstop Taishi Nakawake had the key hit – a go-ahead two-run double – in the Anteaters’ four-run sixth. Freshman starting pitcher David Vizcaino rebounded from his first-inning trouble, allowing just one hit over the next five innings, and reliever Gordon Ingebritson followed with three perfect innings of relief, striking out six of the nine hitters he faced.

“It was great to see David get out of the first and go as long as he did, because we had a reliever warming up,” UCI head coach Ben Orloff said. “We strung together some good at-bats in the sixth.”

Orloff reserved his highest praise for Ingebritson. The side-arm senior right-hander has had a terrific season for a reliever – a 1.68 ERA, 62 strikeouts and only five walks (one of them intentional) in 66-2/3 inning. Opponents are batting below .200 against him.

“For a reliever to have that kind of season in college baseball is just so impressive,” Orloff said. “I think he’s an All-American candidate and he’s been so important to us in the games we’ve won. He’s a special guy.”

UCI had managed just one hit and an unearned run through five innings before waking up with that four-run rally in the sixth.

With one out, catcher Bam Garcia-Pacheco and Justin Torres singled and a sacrifice moved them into scoring position.

In perhaps the biggest at-bat of the inning, Ben Fitzgerald fouled off four consecutive two-strike pitches from Titans starter Evan Yates before finally working him for a full-count walk to load the bases.

Luke Spillane lined out to right field, Nate Nankil making a sprawling diving catch, to score Garcia-Pacheco and cut the deficit to 3-2.

Nakawake, like Fitzgerald, worked Yates to a full count before drilling a double into the left field corner to score both runners and give UCI a 4-3 lead.

Nakawake advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Caden Kendle walked, another wild pitch scored Nakawake to make it 5-3.

The Anteaters added two more runs in the eighth. They loaded the bases with one out, Fitzgerald’s hard single off the second baseman’s glove the only hit. Another wild pitch scored one run and Kendle’s pop to center fell between three Titans to extend the lead to 7-3.

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