Out of Left Field: A Perfect Start
UCI 20, Grambling State 0
On Sunday afternoon, the No. 26 Anteaters blew Grambling State out, 20-0. The victory pushed the team’s record to 7-0 and completed UC Irvine’s second straight perfect week. In UCI’s four games last week, they outscored opponents 43-7, and lowered their season earned run average to 1.99. Despite the 43 run outpour, Irvine somehow managed to lower their average runs per game from 13 to 11.71.
The ’Eaters overwhelmed the Tigers with 20 runs, eight of which came in the bottom of the eighth. Junior Jordan Fox had a perfect 5-5 day at the plate, driving in three runs and scoring four runs. Leadoff hitter D.J. Crumlich and senior Brian Hernandez were both 2-5 with four RBI. Senior Drew Hillman had four RBI as well in his 3-6 performance.
Junior pitcher Crosby Slaught gave up one hit and struck out eight batters in 5.1 innings. Slaught handed the ball over to the bullpen in the sixth. Sophomore Matt Whitehouse threw two hitless innings, striking out four. Freshman Sebastian Santos added two more strikeouts in his first college appearance in the eighth inning. Allowing the second hit of the game, Hernandez shut the door on Grambling with two more strikeouts in the ninth. In the blowout, the Anteater pitching staff tied its team record with 16 strikeouts.
UCI 9, Bethune-Cookman 3
On Feb. 26, the Anteaters won their sixth straight game to start the 2011 season. With seven runs in the bottom of the first inning, Irvine coasted to a 9-3 victory at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
Sophomore Kyle Hooper extended his record to 2-0, allowing two earned runs, two walks and four hits in six innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
Junior Nick Hoover took over in the seventh and recorded the first two outs. Sophomore southpaw Andy Lines picked up another two outs for the Anteaters. In 4.1 innings this season, Lines has allowed just one batter to reach base.
A pair of freshman relievers then finished the game off. 6’8 righty Phillip Ferragamo was unscathed, recording two outs, while lefty Jimmy Litchfield gave up one run in the ninth inning before putting a stamp on the team’s victory.
Hillman started in left field and drove in four runs in the first inning with a grand slam. The senior’s home run was his only hit in a 1-4 day at the plate, but it proved to be the difference in the game as he alone outscored Bethune-Cookman’s entire lineup.
Crumlich and Fox drove in two runs apiece, and designated hitter Jordan Leyland was 1-3 with an RBI and a walk. Senior right fielder Sean Madigan swiped his fourth bag of the season, despite a hitless performance.
UCI 7, Southern 1
Following an outing in which he couldn’t even escape the third inning, Matt Summers’ second start of his UC Irvine career was one to remember.
“I couldn’t believe last week,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said of Summers’ dreadful first start. “He was impressive today. We saw those things we’ve been dreaming about with him.”
Summers threw eight dazzling innings, striking out nine, allowing two hits and just one earned run.
“I feel great,” Summers said. “I felt like I could’ve thrown the ninth.”
The Friday starter’s lone run surrendered came in the eighth, his final inning of work. He entered the inning having allowed just two runners to reach base on one hit and one walk.
“[Summers] calmed down,” said his battery mate, Ronnie Schaeffer. “He was a little too fired up last Friday. He settled down, had a lot of movement on his fastball and had all of his pitches working today.”
Summers was relieved by Ferragamo who overpowered Southern in the ninth inning. Ferragamo got ahead of the first two hitters with fastballs before buckling their knees and freezing them on a wicked curveball which sent them back to the bench with the bat on their shoulders.
“I’m glad he did so well,” Gillespie said of Ferragamo. “He was aggressive and worked fast.”
Like usual, a majority of the lineup (eight of nine batters) picked up at least one hit against Southern. Crumlich was 3-5 with one run batted in. Fox was 2-5 with an RBI. Schaeffer walked and hit 2-3, while calling a one-run ballgame behind the plate.
Junior center fielder Christian Ramirez led the team with two RBIs; one came on a double, the other was in the sixth on a safety squeeze down the first baseline in which the ball beat Madigan at the plate, but Madigan niftily slid around the tag and was ruled safe. The win extended UCI’s record to 5-0.
UCI 7, SDSU 3 F/10
The Anteaters scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning to gain the upper-hand on Tony Gwynn’s San Diego State Aztecs last Tuesday. Senior third baseman Brian Hernandez was 1-5 with an RBI and also earned the first win of his college pitching career, giving up an unearned run in a save opportunity in the ninth before Irvine rallied in extra innings.
“[Hernandez] is a strike thrower and doesn’t get rattled,” Gillespie said. “He likes it, but he hasn’t pitched much. He got a little over-amped and was throwing his changeup a little too fast. Right now we’re going with a closer by committee approach.”
Litchfield threw a perfect seven-pitch 10th inning to shut down the Aztecs after junior Christian Ramirez scored on a two-base error and, with two outs, Schaeffer drove in one on a single and sophomore Scott Gottschling hit a two-run double.
Freshman starter Andrew Thurman threw 5.1 innings, striking out six with two earned runs. Whitehouse, Hoover and Lines combined for 2.2 scoreless middle relief innings.
At the dish, their bats stayed hot. Fox added two more hits against SDSU. Seven of nine ’Eaters in the lineup hit safely, while junior Jordan Leyland was the lone player to fail to reach base.
“It’s good to know that opening weekend wasn’t a fluke,” Fox said.
The Anteaters will take their undefeated record to Moraga as they take on St. Mary’s in a three-game series this weekend.