Aztecs Drop Heartbreaker to UC Irvine

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Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State

SAN DIEGO – San Diego State experienced a microcosm of its season in one inning on Saturday, as No. 15/17 UC Irvine rallied for a 9-8 decision in the second game of a non-conference series at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Trailing 6-3, the Anteaters (27-8) plated six runs with two outs in the top of the ninth on just two hits, benefiting from six walks and a hitter batter to vault into the lead.

Following three walks interspersed between a pop foul and a groundout, UCI's Thomas McCaffery crossed the plate after Myles Smith drew a walk of his own, while Caden Kendle scored moments later when Abraham Garcia-Pacheco was hit by a pitch, trimming the margin to 6-5.

With the bases still loaded, Will Bermudez stepped to the plate and smacked a three-run triple to right-center field on a 1-2 pitch to put the visitors in front, while McCaffery followed with an RBI single in his second at-bat of the frame.

Stung, the Aztecs (11-27) quickly loaded the bases themselves in the bottom of the inning thanks to consecutive singles by Finley Bates and Shaun Montoya, while Jacob McCombs was hit by a pitch.

Shortly thereafter, Jake Jackson walked to bring in Bates, while Montoya scored on Drew Rutter's pinch-hit groundout to first, pulling the Scarlet and Black to within one at 9-8.

However, former SDSU pitcher Ricky Tibbett got another pinch hitter Manoah Chapman looking on a called third strike to end the game.

Despite the shaky outing, Tibbett notched his second consecutive save and eighth of the season, preserving the victory for the Anteaters' third reliever of the night, David Utagawa (2-0), who allowed one walk in 1 1/3 innings.

Conversely, Evan Miranda (1-1) took the loss for the Aztecs after starter Omar Serrano tied his career high with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work, while Dylan Hawkes and Aidan Russell combined for a scoreless eighth.

Serrano yielded three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks, while the Scarlet and Black tagged his UCI counterpart Trevor Hansen for five runs on five hits and two walks in five-plus innings.

Jackson gave the Aztecs the early lead in the first with a two-run single up the middle after Tino Bethancourt drew a two-out walk, while McCombs followed with a double off the top of the wall in right.

However, the Anteaters responded with Bermudez's two-rum homer with two outs in the second after Garcia-Pacheco was issued a base on balls.

SDSU answered with a deep shot of its own in the bottom of the frame, as Brady Lavoie crushed a 3-1 offering from Hansen over the fence in left for his fifth homer of the year, putting the host school back in front, 3-2.

The Aztecs increased their advantage in the fourth when Jackson led off with a double and advanced on a wild pitch before racing home on Irvin Weems' groundout to second.

The Anteaters countered with Anthony Martinez's RBI double in the fifth before the Scarlet and Black plated single markers in the sixth and seventh, respectively, on run-scoring singles by Jackson and Bethancourt, which extended the SDSU lead to 6-3.

Jackson logged his third consecutive game with three hits, finishing with a career-best four RBIs, while McCombs totaled two hits and a pair of runs scored.

On the flip side, Bermudez (2-3) led all players with five RBIs and scored two runs, joining Garcia-Pacheco.

San Diego State will have little time to dwell on its defeat, as the series moves back to Irvine for the finale on Sunday at Anteater Ballpark. Game time is slated for 1 p.m. PT, and the contest will air live via subscription basis on ESPN+.