IRVINE, Calif. --- UC Irvine fell victims to numerous errors along the way, and nearly pulled out a ninth-inning comeback, but dropped the series opener to the Houston Cougars, 4-3, Friday night in Anteater Ballpark.
With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Adam Alcantara launched a ball to left-center field that took the fielder to the track as he hauled in the final out feet from the fence that nearly tied and won the contest.
Houston (16-5) took the lead in the top half of the inning as a leadoff single came around to score after a pair of wild pitches and a bloop single into the left field from Jared Triolo putting UH up for good, 4-3.
The 'Eaters (11-7) had tied it up the inning before thanks to Alex Guenette poking a two-out, two-strike single through the right side to make it a 3-3 ballgame. He gave UCI its first lead in the fourth inning laying down a perfect safety squeeze bunt to score Cole Kreuter and make it 2-1, Anteaters.
UCI's normally spotless defense struggled in the seventh inning relinquishing two vital Cougar runs. A pair of two-out doubles helped knot the game up at 2-2, and an error at second base by the sure-handed Christian Koss followed by a passed ball from Alex Guenette brought home the go-ahead run.
Runs were at a premium on the night against Houston starter Seth Romero who allowed seven walks in 5.1 innings, but limited the Anteaters to two runs as UCI as the 'Eaters made the final out of the bases on three different occasions including twice at home. Anteater hitters struck out just five time against Romero who came into the night leading the nation in punchouts and collected at least 10 in every outing this season up to this point. Joey Pulido pulled together the win with 3.2 innings of effective relief work.
Jordan Bocko made his first weekend start and home start going a career-high 5.1 innings leaving with a lead as he scattered seven hits and four walks. Calvin Faucher took on the loss after his one inning of work in the ninth.
Jared Triolo swung the hot stick for the Cougars with four hits, two of them doubles, and driving home a pair of runs. Cole Kreuter joined Guenette as UCI's offense scoring twice and belting his second homer of the season.
The Anteaters fall to 11-7 on the season losing back-to-back games for just the second time all year. They have a chance to even the series Saturday, March 25, at 2:00 p.m. with righties Louis Raymond and Mitch Ullom squaring off on the mound.
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