Stockton, Calif. - The Pacific baseball team goes for a fifth-straight victory as it opens Big West play at UC Irvine. The Tigers and Anteaters will open a three-game series at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Anteater Ballpark.
The Tigers are looking for a fifth-straight win in Friday's Big West opener after taking four in a row from Brown. Pacific last won five in a row in 2010, when the Tigers downed No. 19 Stanford, swept a three-game set from San Jose State and took the BWC opener at Long Beach State. With four-straight wins over Brown last weekend, Pacific posted its first four-game series sweep since taking a five-game set over Coppin State in 2003, although the Tigers had just one four-game series in between (Hawaii, 2005).
Pacific tallied 42 runs in the four games against Brown as the Tigers' season batting average rose 28 points in the series. Pacific hit .441 (63-for-143) in the four games with 12 of 13 Pacific offensive players hit .333 or higher in the series.
Tiger pitching continued to round in to form, as Pacific pitchers have a 3.13 ERA in the last eight games. Pacific's pitching staff turned in a 2.52 ERA in the three-game series at Gonzaga and a 2.75 ERA against the Bears. The staff was led by freshman RHP Michael Benson, who was named Big West Pitcher of the Week on Monday. Benson required just 95 pitchers to whitewash Brown in a 10-0 complete game shutout in the season opener. He scattered six hits, walking none in the Tigers' 10-0 win over the Bears in the first game of a double-header. He did not allow a runner to advance as far as second base and struck out a season-high six batters.
Benson will get the ball in Friday's game one against UC Irvine. He has a 3.38 ERA on the season with a 2-3 record. In 29.1 innings, he's allowed just nine walks against 18 strikeouts. He will be opposed by UC Irvine's RHP Andrew Thurman. The 6-3, sophomore has a 2-1 record with a 3.41 ERA in 2012. In 31.2 innings, he's struck out 24 against seven walks. His last outing was a win over Dartmouth last Friday in which Thurman allowed three earned runs in six innings.
On Saturday, the Tigers will turn to LHP Kyle Crawford for the start in the 1 p.m. contest. The sophomore southpaw has a 2-2 record with 5.20 ERA. He's gone deep into the game in his last two outings, with an eight-inning complete game loss to Gonzaga (by a 2-0 score) and a 8.1 inning stint against Brown, earning the win with four earned allowed. In 36.1 innings, he's fanned 20 batters. UC Irvine will send RHP Crosby Slaught to the hill in game two. The 6-4 senior is 3-2 with a 2.53 ERA. In 32.0 innings, he's struck out 22 and walked 12. On Saturday, he allowed two earned runs in a victory over Dartmouth, posting a three strikeouts in six innings.
Pacific's Sunday starter will be RHP Michael Hager, who allowed three runs in seven innings last Sunday against Brown. On the year, Hager has a 1-1 record with a 5.46 ERA. He's struck out 11 in 28.0 innings of work. UC Irvine's pitcher the 1 p.m. start is listed as TBA.
The Tigers enter the series at 8-16 overall, while the Anteaters check in at 14-9 following Wednesday's 5-4 loss to USC. Following the series, Pacific returns home to face Nevada on Monday, April 2, at Klein Family Field in a 6 p.m. start.