Hager Shuts Down Highlanders As Pacific Rolls, 11-2
The first five Tigers in Pacific's lineup each posted two hits and freshman RHP Michael Hager struck out a career-high seven as Pacific thumped UC Riverside, 11-2, Saturday at Klein Family Field.
Senior SS Josh Simms capped the evening with his first career grand slam, his first homer of the season, in the eighth inning.
The Tigers chased Highlanders' RHP Trevor Frank (1-7) after just three innings, jumping out to a 6-1 lead.
In the first inning, Pacific loaded the bases on one-out singles from freshman CF Tyler Sullivan, redshirt freshman 1B Erik Lockwood and Simms. Senior RF Allen Riley followed with a two-out, two-run single to left field for a 2-0 lead. After a double-steal by Riley and Simms, Frank posted a strikeout to end the inning.
UC Riverside cut the gap to one in the third on a single by SS Eddie Young and a bunt single from CF Devyn Bolasky. 3B Vince Gonzalez drove home Young with a single to right before Hager posted a strikeout and coaxed an inning-ending double play.
Pacific pushed four runs across in the third, as freshman DH Taylor Murphy tripled into the right field corner and scored on a groundout by sophomore 3B Curtis Gomez. Gomez ended up aboard on a throwing error, and freshman 2B Robby Mansfield followed with a single to right. Freshman C Dallas Correa hit into a fielder's choice with Gomez out at the plate, but set up second and third for senior LF Brett Christopher. Frank knocked down a hot shot back to the box, but Christopher reached as Mansfield scored, and Correa trotted home on a wild pitch. Sullivan added an RBI single to left for a 6-1 lead.
In the fourth, Lockwood greeted RHP Gavin Mills with a single to right, and after stealing second on a strikeout, came in to score on an RBI single from Murphy.
The Highlanders pushed a run across in the seventh off Hager, who had retired nine of 10 before walking DH Drake Zarate to lead off the inning. C Bart Steponovich and Young both singled to left field to load the bases, and Bolasky added a single to left for the second Riverside run. But Hager fanned Gonzalez on a pitch in the dirt, and as the ball caromed off the backstop, Correa's throw to Hager covering nailed Steponovich to end the inning.
In Pacific's eighth, Mills' last pitch struck Correa with one out, and Christopher laid down a bunt single to third off of LHP Antonio Gonzales. After a walk to Lockwood, Simms blasted the first pitch he saw over the wall in left for his first home run of the year.
The grand slam was the first by the Tigers since April 3, 2009, when current St. Louis Cardinals farmhand Nick Longmire cleared the bases with a grand slam against UC Santa Barbara.
Hager (4-5) allowed 10 runs in his seven innings of work, fanning a career-best seven. He walked just one while allowing two earned. Senior LHP Joe Spizzirri finished up, striking out four while not allowing a hit in the final two innings.
Pacific (12-36, 2-15 Big West) evens the series with the Highlanders (18-27, 6-11 BWC). The rubber game is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch Sunday.