Baseball Starts Season With Sweep

UCI 5, LMU 1

After several seniors talked about making the 2010 season a year of redemption for a tough draw in the 2009 NCAA Tournament and numerous snubs from the MLB draft, the No. 7 Anteaters went out on opening day and took down Loyola Marymount 5-1 in front of 864 on a chilly night at Anteater Ballpark.

Senior ace Daniel Bibona had his typically dominating start, striking out ten in seven innings, holding the Lions scoreless and walking no one. LMU’s No. 1 starter Martin Viramontes also put in a stellar effort through the first five innings, stifling the ’Eaters and matching Bibona in effectiveness. Each starting pitcher had six strikeouts through five scoreless frames.

“First game of the season, you want to get it out of the way, want to get a win under your belt,” Bibona said. “It was a pitching duel which I expected. I heard good things about that guy and he lived up to it.”

However, UCI broke through in the sixth inning, scoring five runs on Viramontes. Senior Casey Stevenson started the rally with a single up the middle, which was followed by a solid knock to left from junior transfer Drew Hillman, the first of his UCI career. Sophomore Ronnie Shaeffer worked a walk, loading the bases for senior Francis Larson. Larson  drew a full count walk as well, putting UCI on the scoreboard.

“The at-bat by Larson was really critical, he got a 3-2 fastball and he got that pitch because [Viramontes] walked Shaeffer,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said. “I think they just lost confidence because prior to that [Viramontes] didn’t give in on that count. I really felt like that was the key at-bat of the inning.”

First baseman Jeff Cusick broke open the floodgates in the next at-bat, slicing a line drive in to right for a two-run double. The senior had started the season with a double play and a strikeout looking. Sophomore Jordan Fox picked up another RBI when his line drive went off of the LMU shortstop’s glove, and Fox ended up at second with the ole infield double. Fox had the best batting line of the night for UCI, going three for four with an RBI. Sophomore Tommy Reyes wrapped up the scoring with a grounder to second that scored Cusick.

Sophomore Nick Hoover and freshmen Kyle Hooper and Andy Lines finished out the game for UCI. All three pitchers allowed at least one hit, but would have preserved a shutout if not for a Stevenson error on an easy grounder to second with two outs in the ninth. Lines, who redshirted last season, picked up the save in his debut with the Anteaters. He was aided by an interesting call to end the game, in which LMU second basemen Jonathan Johnson had the called third strike hit him. However, umpire Billy van Raaphorst ruled that Johnson had leaned into the strike zone, and thus called Johnson out, ending the game.

“They needed to get out there, and we need them to be better,” Gillespie said of his young bullpen guys. “I’m glad they survived.”

Bibona was able to keep two streaks alive with the win: his 12th straight winning decision dating back to last season, and also striking out the first batter he has faced on the season in all four years at UCI. More importantly, Bibona showcased an impressive cutter, a new pitch to his arsenal. A pleased Gillespie counted roughly a half dozen strikeouts on Bibona’s cutter.

“Being able to throw four different pitches at any time is just another thing hitters have to think about in the back of their minds,” Bibona said. “I was excited it was working well today.”

UCI 9, LMU 6

The Anteaters did not start off as well in Game 2 of the series at George C. Page Stadium, trailing LMU for the first five innings as Anteater starting pitcher Christian Bergman gave up five earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched.

However, UCI battled back as Shaeffer delivered the first UCI home run of the season with a two-out jack driving in junior Sean Madigan and sophomore Tommy Ryes. The game was tied at five until a sloppy Lions defense did them in, committing five errors, including one from Joe Vierra on a Shaeffer single that scored Stevenson from first. This proved to be the go-ahead run, while Larson added another home run in the ninth to cap the Anteaters’ scoring.

Sophomore Matt Summers received the win by relieving Bergman with three shutout innings. After another appearance from Lines, who is becoming a lefty specialist of sorts, senior Kyle Necke recorded his first save of the season with a 1.1 innings pitched, one earned run allowed outing.

Both Madigan and Larson wound up with three hits on the day. UCI scored six of its nine runs with two outs.

UCI 19, LMU 9

UCI finished the series sweep on Sunday by hitting all of the LMU pitchers at will. Junior Ryan Fisher racked up a career high five RBI’s, including a grand slam.

The Anteaters scored seven runs in the first inning alone, sending up 11 batters against LMU freshman Aaron Griffin. Senior Eric Pettis started for UCI, his first start since 2007 in the College World Series when Pettis was only a freshman.

Redshirt freshman Scott Gottschling had a debut to remember for UCI as he hit a pinch hit home run over the left field fence in the eighth inning.

Freshmen pitchers Matt Whitehouse and Evan Brock also made their debuts for Irvine, combining for a total of five strikeouts. Both pitchers had scoreless innings, and both look to have promising futures for UCI. Next, UCI will face Rikkyo University in an exhibition game on Tuesday at Anteater Ballpark before heading out to play in the Coastal Carolina Tournament, Feb. 25-28.