UCR baseball gathers momentum near season’s end
By: Earl Ignacio, C.W.
The UC Riverside baseball team (24-28, 10-11) enjoyed a successful outing Tuesday night against the Mountain West Conference’s San Diego State (19-36, 11-19), beating the Aztecs 8-3. It was important for the Highlanders to start off the week on a positive note as a three-game series against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (30-24, 10-11) awaited them. The Highlanders struck quickly, scoring six runs in the first inning alone. UCR has benefitted this season whenever they score more than six runs, sporting a stellar 13-4 record in such instances. However, they carry a measly 9-23 record in games where they score less than six runs. Vince Fernandez added to his team-leading home run total with another solo homer in the second to propel his count to seven for the season. The offense was humming Tuesday, as the Highlanders scored eight runs on 10 hits while also leaving seven on base. Their stellar defense was also on display as they allowed only two runs in the fourth inning and surrendered only one more in the seventh.
UC Riverside continued their impressive play against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Friday night with a 6-4 victory. The Highlanders got off to a fast start as they outscored the Mustangs, 3-0, by the fifth inning. Austin Sodders performed well for much of the game, although he allowed three runs in the fifth that sparked a slight comeback attempt by the Broncos. Head Coach Troy Percival vouched for Sodders’ phenomenal play after the game, acknowledging that “he’s been our stud. Nobody else in our conference can say they’re 6-1 on Friday nights and that’s all attributed to Sodders.” The Highlanders followed their eight-run performance on Tuesday with a six-run performance on Friday with Austin Colvin and Aaron Cisneros both contributing two runs each. The Highlanders have a tendency to swing for the fences at times rather than focusing on base-hits, although the team has experienced consistent batting recently.
Coach Percival was pleased with the team’s recent offensive performances and wants to see more of the same in the team’s upcoming games, stating, “We just gotta keep having good approaches at the plate, not swinging at pitches outside the strike-zone, making their pitchers throw strikes and attacking those.” The Highlanders’ defense had been pivotal toward team victories and that trend continued this game as they allowed just two errors. Percival noted their “fielding percentage of .973 which is leading the conference,” a remarkable metric to consider when analyzing their victories.
The team followed up their spectacular play en route to a 11-5 victory over the Mustangs on Saturday night. With the Highlanders coming in hot off two consecutive performances totaling 14 runs, the Highlanders were able to carry momentum with more excellent batting, adding 11 more runs. UCR started strong once again, recording seven runs by just the fourth inning. Cal Poly managed to close the margin briefly with five runs in the span of two innings within the fifth and sixth before closing out the game with three more runs in the seventh and eighth innings. The Highlanders have enjoyed marvelous hitting as of late to match their year-long standout defense. Pitcher Richard Delgado earned his first victory of the season, topping off an impressive defensive performance that held Cal Poly scoreless for the first four innings. The Highlanders have played their best ball when their bats are live, and when the defense and batting functions at a high rate, UC Riverside is capable of making some noise in the Big West Tournament.