Don’t be alarmed by the box score of Friday afternoon’s result for your fifth-ranked UC Irvine baseball team. Looking at the 9-2 box score may make one cringe as if looking at the Rihanna’s latest photos. I understand. Our stud pitcher Daniel Bibona, who just came off a one-hit performance against Hawaii, was torched for five runs in 5.1 innings pitched. Our offense, which is supposed to carry us this year, could only muster up two runs against a starting pitcher who struck out only two and walked four. And the most worrisome of all, our bullpen looks weak. Matt Dufour and Corey Hamilton combined 2.2 innings pitched and allowed four earned runs on four hits. Suddenly, the Anteaters don’t look too deserving of their national ranking. However, the box score and the actual game tell two different stories.
The greatest knock on Bibona last season was his late inning endurance. We were spoiled with Scott Gorgen, who practically went for a complete game every outing. Bibona has been masterful in almost every outing, but gets vulnerable when he loses some gas late into games. That is what happened against Texas A&M.
Bibona picked up from where he left off against Hawaii in the first inning against the Aggies as he made them look like fools by striking out the side in the first inning. He continued to pitch scoreless ball as he mixed three pitches to both sides of the plate to keep the potent Aggie offense off-balance.
The Aggies got to Bibona in the fifth, however, as he was forced to throw 26 pitches to survive the inning unscathed. That inning seemed to have taken a toll as Bibona gave up a single, an uncharacteristic walk, and a two-run homer to one of the premier hitters in the nation in Luke Anders in the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Ballpark. As you may recall, Bibona was charged an earned run in his one-hit performance against Hawaii as Dufour allowed a double to score a run. The same thing happened on Friday, as three of Bibona’s earned runs were charged via Dufour’s performance. In reality, Bibona has only allowed two earned runs this season, but technically and on paper he has allowed six. Don’t be shocked by his 4.15 ERA.
Nick Hoover has been a bright arm in a dark UCI bullpen. He hasn’t allowed a run in two relief appearances.
The UCI offense was held in check by the Aggies, but that does not mean that they didn’t make solid contact. It just wasn’t UCI’s day as sharply hit balls seemed to always find their way to Aggie defenders. The offense picked up in the other two games over the weekend, outscoring opponents 20-11. I still don’t think the offense has woken up yet, in the most positive sense.
The season is young, and the young inexpierenced arms will benefit from more experience.
The youth has already flashed some brilliance with their bat. Freshman DJ Crumlich is batting .455 through four games with a home run and four RBIs.
I will go ahead and even proclaim that UCI would have beaten the top-ranked Aggies if there was a hostile crowd. The ‘Eaters relish the added pressure.
No worries. This team is sure to grow like fingernails. We have seen nothing yet.