Late UCI Rally Sinks Aztecs Once Again

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Trevor Beal

IRVINE, Calif. – Victory once again proved elusive for the San Diego State baseball team, as No. 15/17 UC Irvine rallied for a 7-6 decision in 10 innings on Sunday in the finale of a non-conference weekend series at Anteater Ballpark.

The Anteaters (28-8) tallied the final six runs of the contest, tying the score at 6-6 with three runs in the bottom of the ninth before plating the game-winner in the 10th on Jo Oyokama's RBI single to deep center field to complete the sweep.

Conversely, the Aztecs (11-28) suffered their third consecutive one-run defeat of the weekend and second straight in heart-breaking fashion after UCI posted an improbable 9-8 triumph in San Diego on Saturday.

Jake Jackson, Jacob McCombs and Tino Bethancourt finished with two hits apiece to lead the Scarlet and Black on Sunday, while Thomas McCaffrey (3 hits), Myles Smith (2 hits) and Will Bermudez (2 hits) paced the UCI offense. 

Bethancourt went deep on the first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh for his third home run of the season, a two-run bomb scoring Shaun Montoya, who earlier ripped a double down the left-field line, giving the Scarlet and Black a seemingly comfortable 6-1 advantage.

The Anteaters responded with a pair of markers in the bottom of the frame, as Smith scored on a single to left center by Bermudez, while McCaffery crossed the plate on Chase Call's groundout, trimming the margin to 6-3.

SDSU put two runners aboard in the eighth inning when pinch hitter Irvin Weems reached on a passed ball after a swinging strikeout, while Evan Sipe drew a walk. However, relievers Nick Rincover and Max Martin fanned the next two hitters, respectively, with the latter inducing a groundout to extinguish the threat.

Martin also struck out the final two Aztecs in the ninth after Montoya and McCombs walked, with the latter receiving an intentional pass.

UCI wasted no time with its furious rally in the bottom of the inning, as Bermudez hit a lead-off single and advanced on a wild pitch before racing home on Call's double to the gap in left center, cutting the deficit to 6-4.

Moments later, the host school loaded the bases after Abraham Garcia-Pacheco was hit by a pitch, while Woody Hadeen beat the throw to first on a bunt attempt down the third-base line.

Oyama subsequently grounded out to first to bring home Call, while Caden Kendle was intentionally walked to reload the bases. Shortly thereafter, pinch runner Frankie Carney crossed the plate on Anthony Martinez's sacrifice fly to center, knotting the game at 6-6.

Former SDSU pitcher Ricky Tibbett surfaced as the Aztecs' nemesis once again, retiring the Scarlet and Black in order in the top of the 10th.

Meanwhile, McCaffrey led off the bottom of the frame with a single off Chris Canada, advancing to second on a Bermudez sacrifice bunt before Call was intentionally walked. After Carney flew out to center, Hadeen walked to load the bases, while Oyama followed with a single on an 0-1 pitch to deep center past the outstretched glove of Jackson, as McCaffrey touched home with the game-winner.

Tibbett (2-1), who earned saves in the first two games of the series, picked up the victory in Sunday's finale, while Canada (0-4) absorbed the tough loss.

Aztec starter Xavier Cardenas III yielded just one run on three hits to go with a trio of strikeouts but was lifted after walking five batters through 5 2/3 innings.

SDSU plated single markers in the first and fourth innings on RBI singles by McCombs and Josh Quezada, respectively.

UCI broke through for a run in the fifth on Smith's sacrifice fly before the Scarlet and Black extended its lead to 4-1 in the sixth on Jackson's run-scoring single followed by Quezada's RBI groundout.

The Anteaters left a whopping 20 men on base for the game, while Aztecs stranded nine runners.

San Diego State returns to the diamond on Tuesday, April 23, when it makes the short drive down Interstate 8 to face the University of San Diego in a crosstown battle at Fowler Park. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., and the contest will air live via subscription basis on ESPN+.