Irvine, Calif. — The Orange County Riptide answered back against the Ventura County Pirates all night, but just came up short at the very end, losing 6-5 on Opening Night.
“It’s day one and I’m not worried about it in the slightest,” Riptide head coach Connor Spencer said. “I’m very happy with how we fought back in that last inning and hopefully that’s something that carries over into the culture of the team.”
Veteran Evan Vasiliou (Utah Tech), a member of the 2022 squad, opened up the season on the mound for the Riptide. Vasiliou was the first of seven different pitchers used for the Riptide on Opening Night.
“We threw a ton of pitchers because we wanted to see what the arms look like,” Spencer said. “We struck out 14 batters and that’s a good start for us. It was good to see the different lively arms out there, but we just need to work on throwing more strikes.”
Ventura struck first in the top of the 2nd inning when catcher Brody Brown hit a ground ball up the middle for a RBI single off of reliever Ben Hansen (BYU) to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
The Riptide responded right back in the bottom of the 2nd inning with a clever double steal play. With runners on 1st and 3rd, catcher Connor Clift (USC) showed off his wheels by drawing a throw and stealing 2nd while Connor McGuire (Cal Baptist) scored to level the game at 1-1.
Connor Kinney (undecided) pitched the next two innings for the Riptide and shutdown the Pirates’ lineup while striking out two and walking three.
Ventura scrapped two runs off of Jack Kirrer (Cal) in the top of the 5th from Andrew Tovar’s two-run single to boost the Pirates’ lead to 3-1. After Tovar’s single, Kirrer escaped a jam and mowed down the rest of Ventura’s lineup by striking out five.
The Riptide fought back in the bottom of the 5th with Grady Morgan (Fresno State) driving in Owen Fuller (UNC Charlotte) on a single to cut the lead to 3-2.
With two outs, Ethan Felix (El Camino College) extended the Riptide’s rally with a ground ball up the middle to bring home McGuire and tied it up at 3-3.
Matthew Flores (Hawai’i) and Nolan George (UNLV) continued to keep Ventura’s lineup off balanced. The two pitchers combined for two innings and no runs, with Flores striking out two and George striking out three.
The Riptide ran into trouble in the top of the 9th when Tovar hit a fly ball down the right field line that snuck over the 325’ sign for a three-run home run to bring the Pirates’ lead to 6-3. Tovar stood out for Ventura, recording five RBI’s in the game.
After directly answering back to Ventura the whole game, the Riptide didn’t go down without a fight.
Nolan Funke (New Mexico State) crushed a two-run home run for the Riptide in the bottom of the 9th to shrink the Pirates’ lead to one with two outs, but Pirates’ closer Jake Schwartz induced a line-out to record the final out of the game and earn the save for a 6-5 Opening Night loss.
The Riptide will look to bounce back against the Inland Valley Bucs on Wednesday, June 7 at 7 p.m. in their last non-league match-up before California Collegiate League play begins.
Ventura County Pirates vs OC Riptide – Box