Mark Contreras, UC Riverside

Mark Contreras was the star of the night with a two-run homer. (Shotgun Spratling)


Under The Radar: UC Riverside

Under The Radar

LOS ANGELES — UC Riverside senior Mark Contreras had an idea of what was coming.

UC Riverside logo

“I learned that whatever they throw me 2-2, they are going to come at me 3-2, so I just kind of trusted that,” Contreras said. “I had it in the back of my head. I wasn’t sitting, but I was just reading something up.”

With the tying run at third base, UCLA sidewinding sophomore closer Brian Gadsby had attacked Contreras with a plethora of offspeed pitches. Contreras was looking for another and when Gadsby didn’t bury it at his knees, he turned on the pitch, driving it over the right field wall for a go-ahead, two-run homer. It proved to be the game-winner. Though it managed as many errors as it had hits (two apiece) and struck out 15 times, UC Riverside beat the Bruins, 3-2, at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Tuesday night.

It was UCR’s first win at UCLA since 2009 and a message to the Big West that the Highlanders aren’t going to be anyone’s whipping boy this year. The Highlanders also split a pair of games this weekend against a quality Nebraska club that entered the season not far outside the D1Baseball Top 25 rankings, so Tuesday’s win improved them to 2-1 against two good opponents. A veteran lineup led by Contreras isn’t going to go away in games and the pitching staff has its best collection of arms since major leaguers Joe Kelly and Matt Andriese were both on the roster — coincidentally also in 2009.

“We’re not here to just roll over no matter what the rankings say. We’re here to play,” Contreras said.

“We are ready to play anybody that wants to play us and we are going to make some waves in this conference,” Highlanders head coach Troy Percival said. “These guys never say quit. It’s going to be a fun year for us because you’re going to see a lot of good pitching and we’re not going to quit.”

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