One of the top teams in college baseball, UC Irvine looked the part early in a series opener at Cal State Bakersfield Friday.
The 20th-ranked Anteaters buried the Roadrunners with a six-run first inning en route to a 11-5 win in the first game of a four-game series at Hardt Field.
The first inning proved disastrous for Roadrunner starter Noah Cordova, who was pulled after two-thirds of an inning, allowing three hits and three walks and leaving the bases loaded with a 3-0 deficit.
Things didn't get any better, as Taishi Nakawake, the first batter faced by reliever Cody Tucker, blasted a bases-clearing, three-run double down the left field line.
"When you're playing a quality ball club like Irvine, it's awfully difficult to come back after giving up a six spot in the first," CSUB head coach Jeremy Beard said. "You just really want to get ahead, throw strike one and let your defense go to work. But when you're not hitting the mitt, it's hard to get any rhythm on defense."
Nakawake finished with four RBIs as all nine UCI starting batters had reached base by the fourth inning. The Anteaters put the leadoff man on base eight times, bringing him home on six such occasions.
A Roadrunner offense that hit just .151 with five runs in a four-game set at Long Beach State last weekend came to life a bit and actually played even with UCI after the top of the first inning.
Tyler Jorgensen had two RBIs and capped a three-run fifth inning with a two-out single. Jacen Roberson hit his team-best seventh home run on a solo shot in the seventh, while Angel Saldivar had two hits and scored a run.
"Our guys did a good job of competing to try and come back and win a ball game," Beard said. "I felt like we were taking quality at bats and putting good swings on balls. To see us come back and compete the way we did, that's motivating (with) still three games ahead of us."
The Anteaters have won eight in a row and improve to 26-7 in league play, dropping the Roadrunners to 16-13. The teams will play a doubleheader at Hardt Field Saturday, the first game beginning at noon.