Facing a marquee opponent without your marquee starting pitchers is always a daunting task. Luckily for Anteater baseball last Tuesday, relievers Nick Hoover and Evan Brock stepped up in a big way to help topple No. 11 UCLA 2-1.
“They’re good, and it’s a great win anytime,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said. “This RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] deal matters, and this is a difference maker.”
Redshirt freshman Andy Lines got his first start of the year, and Gillespie’s desire to start a soft-tossing left-hander worked out OK, but UCLA was still able to take a 1-0 lead in the first.
After retiring his man to start off the second, Lines was removed for redshirt sophomore Nick Hoover, who worked around a hit and stolen base by UCLA shortstop Niko Gallego to keep the Bruins scoreless in the second. Hoover proceeded to pitch 3.2 more scoreless innings giving up only one more hit.
“For Hoover, it’s always been about his [giving up too many] base on balls,” Gillespie said. “We’re real happy with what Hoover did tonight, and we hope it makes a difference to him. We hope it helps him over the hump, because he’s going to have to go out there again and again for us the rest of the way.”
UCLA starter Garett Claypool boasted a 7-1 record and a 2.02 era coming into the match, with one of those wins coming against UCI at Jackie Robinson stadium earlier this year. For the first four innings, it was much of the same, as Claypool shut down the ’Eater offense.
However, in the fifth, sophomore DJ Crumlich hit a flare to center that was nearly caught by Bruin outfielder Beau Amaral. It was ruled a trapped ball by the umpires, allowing Crumlich to stay at first. Casey Stevenson walked to put Anteaters on first and second with one out. After a fly-out by Brian Hernandez, Jeff Cusick came up with the clutch two-out, two-run RBI, smashing a line drive gapper to left-center. The big hit was also a record breaker for Cusick, as he set a new UCI record for career doubles with 50.
“I don’t know that everyone really knows what kind of special year [Cusick] has already had, and is having,” Gillespie said. “I’ve had very few guys that have had years like this … they’re the Geoff Jenkins’ of the world.”
After the bottom of the fifth, UCLA head coach (and former UCI head coach) John Savage became enraged by the umpire’s trap call which led to UCI’s runs scoring. After an animated display of outrage by Savage, the umpiring crew ejected him in an anti-climactic non-gesture.
True freshman Brock was handed the ball in the seventh inning after Hoover started the inning off with a walk. Brock proceeded to retire nine straight to finish the game, including striking out the side in the ninth.
“I have on and off weekends, [but] after I got the first strike out I knew I was feeling pretty good,” Brock said.
Brock now boasts the second-lowest ERA on the team.
“Brock has lights out stuff, it’s just him getting on the mound and wanting to do it,” Cusick said. “I saw it in his eyes a couple times, and he wanted the situation. He was not praying for outs out there.”