IRVINE — There were two schools of thought regarding the mind-set of UC Irvine senior Scott Gottschling during the final at-bat of the 10th inning of a doubleheader nightcap Saturday.
And Anteaters' Coach Mike Gillespie wound up with the dissenting viewpoint.
"[Gottschling] looked hypnotized to me," said Gillespie, as the right fielder stood in with the bases loaded and the score tied against nonconference visitor Cal. "I thought he took two strike threes, or at least if they had been called strikes, I couldn't have complained. I thought he was zoned out."
So, with the count full, Gillespie called timeout and approached Gottschling on the grass between the dugout and the batter's box.
I said, "What, are we guessing every pitch here?" Gillespie said. "My advice is: Don't guess, because you can't really afford to guess here."
Turns out Gottschling had it covered, standing calmly as Golden Bears reliever Michael Lowden threw a 58-foot fastball to walk in the winning run and enable the No. 25-ranked Anteaters a 4-3 triumph and a split.
UCI (5-1), was in need of some redemption after losing a 3-0 lead, then allowing four ninth-inning runs to allow Cal to wrestle away an 8-6 win in Game 1.
"I knew it was kind of a pressure situation, but I was trying to act like it was a normal [at-bat]," said Gottschling, who was mobbed and wound up at the bottom of a dog pile of teammates beyond the first-base bag. "I was kind of really focused and in the zone the whole AB."
UCI was barely acquainted with anything resembling a comfort zone all day against the scrappy visitors (4-3).
UCI posted a 10-7 advantage in hits in the opening game and bested Cal, 13-9, in that department in the second game. But a shortage of clutch hitting and sterling pitching combined to push the Anteaters on the verge of being swept.
Cal took a 4-3 lead, lost that in the seventh, then scored four in the top of the ninth of the opening game to eventually claim victory and even the four-game series.
UCI scored twice in the bottom of the ninth, and brought the tying run to the plate before Ryan Mason closed the door, saddling UCI closer Race Parameter with the loss.
Parmenter gave up four runs, all earned, on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
UCI junior starting pitcher Kyle Hooper and freshman reliever Elliot Surrey combined to allow just three runs on nine hits over 9 2/3 innings of the second game, but Cal managed leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, the last after scoring in the top of the 10th.
But UCI junior Dominique Taylor laced a one-out double, then later used some daring baserunning to score the tying run.
Following Taylor's double, Taylor Sparks blasted a low liner off the glove of a diving third baseman to put runners on the corners. Taylor never hesitated on Ronnie Shaeffer's subsequent swinging bunt, which Cal catcher Adam Knapp fielded about 10 feet in front of the plate. Hoping to snatch the ball, then retreat to tag out Taylor charging from third, Knapp instead lost his footing and Taylor scored easily on what was ruled a single.
Connor Spencer followed with what would usually be a bloop single to left, but Sparks clung too closely to second on the play and was forced at third on a 7-5 fielder's choice.
Jerry McClanahan walked to load the bases and Gottschling produced the game-winning RBI by never taking the bat off his shoulder.
Shaeffer, who entered hitting .500, was five for 10 on the day, including his first home run of the season, a solo shot to open the scoring in Game 1.
Shaeffer had three RBIs in the doubleheader, as did Spencer, who was four for 10, and Chris Rabago.