It came down to the final frame for the Tigers as the Saddleback College Gauchos placed two runs in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Despite the Gauchos threatening, Riverside remained composed as freshman closer Lawrence Castaneda wiggled out of potential damage leading to a 5-3 victory.
Riverside earned their fifth-straight Orange Empire Conference (OEC) victory aided by the strong pitching performance from sophomore southpaw Garrett Irvin. Irvin, who graced the mound for the seventh time this season, was electric. He only faced true trouble in the first inning and the seventh inning. He kept the Gauchos off balance with a sharp curveball and a strong fastball, which he located at will.
The Riverside etched their first two runs in the bottom of the second inning with help from poor defensive play by Saddleback. After reaching base on a free pass, freshman designated hitter Steve Ramirez cross home on an error by the Gaucho's third baseman. Freshman third baseman Matthew Ivancich kept the inning alive by barreling a single through the left side, plating sophomore left fielder Joseph Hodapp, leading to a 2-0 advantage.
Two runs was all the support Irvin needed as he retired 12 consecutive batters the following four frames. He struck out seven batters during the streak highlighted by punching out the side in order in the top of the fifth inning.
The Tigers added two runs in the bottom of the fifth with Ivancich recording his second RBI-single of the game, scoring Hodapp who reached on a single to kick off the inning. Freshman second baseman Alex Moreno followed with a single up the middle, plating Ivancich for a 4-0 lead.
Saddleback did not role over as they scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning, but a two-out RBI double from Ramirez provided the Tigers with further cushion.
Casteneda, who took over for Irvin with two outs in the seventh inning, found himself in a little bit of trouble in the final frame with Saddleback working the go-ahead run to the dish. Nevertheless, he bared down and retired the final batter via strikeout leading to a 5-3 win.
Irvin (6-1) earned the victory after chucking 6.2 innings and fanning five batters. Casteneda picked up his fourth save of the year after tossing 2.1 innings and striking out four batters.
Ivancich went 2-for-2 with two RBI and a pair of singles, while Moreno notched a 2-for-4 line at the plate.
Riverside (19-5, 6-1 OEC) will travel play Saddleback in game two of the three-game series on the road Thursday, March 21 at 2 p.m.