Summers, ’Eaters Sizzling

Sofia Paneulos/New University

UCI 9, USC 2

Junior centerfielder Christian Ramirez led the No. 16 UC Irvine Anteaters to a 9-2 win over the University of Southern California last Tuesday night in a non-conference matchup. Ramirez drove in a career-high four runs on a triple and a double, coming up clutch to distance the ’Eaters from the Trojans. Senior Drew Hillman and junior Jordan Leyland each knocked in a pair of runs on two hits.

On the mound, Irvine went with a plethora of pitchers, knowing that they had a few days to rest up for the weekend series at UC Riverside. Sophomore Matt Whitehouse got the nod, tossing 1.1 of scoreless baseball, giving up one hit before making way to freshman Andrew Thurman. Despite K-ing two of his three outs, Thurman struggled, allowing the only two earned runs of the ballgame in one inning of work.

Andy Lines took the ball from Thurman in the third and later received his fourth victory of the season for his 2.2 inning, scoreless effort.

But the most impressive hurler of the day proved to be 6-foot-8-inch freshman righty Phillip Ferragamo. On the hill, Ferragamo dominated the Trojans, giving up just one hit in three innings, striking out two. Sophomore Kyle Hooper retired USC in order in the top of the 9th with two groundouts and a strikeout.

UCI 12, UCR 0

Junior ace Matt Summers continued to be the Cinderella story of the season on Friday at UC Riverside. Throughout the year he’s been working toward one goal: to throw a complete game. On May 20, he did just that and then some. Summers carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, but the Highlanders’ Bart Steponovich stepped on his pitch and stroked a single to break up the no-hit bid.

In the seventh, Summers allowed a second hit, but after being held on a short leash in the late innings throughout the season, the coaching staff allowed Summers to finish what he had started. Ending with a career-high 10 strikeouts and a complete game shutout, the junior continues to improve his draft prospects.

“[Throwing a complete game] was something I have been working toward the entire year,” Summers said, “and to finally achieve my goal makes me proud of all of the work I have been putting in.”

Summers is now 9-2 on the season with 85 strikeouts and a 1.90 earned run average, allowing just 1.11 walks and hits per innings pitched in his 94.2 innings of work.

The heroics carried over to the batter’s box in backup of Summers. Seven Anteaters totaled multi-hit games as the lineup accounted for 18 hits. The meat of the order feasted on the Highlander pitching staff, with three, four and five hitters: Brian Hernandez, Drew Hillman and first baseman Jordan Fox all pounding out three hits apiece. Hernandez was 3-5 with a walk and four runs scored. Hillman knocked in three runs in a 3-6 day at the dish. Fox was 3-4, walking once, scoring three times and tallying two runs batted in. Leyland, in the seventh spot, accounted for five of the 12 runs, driving in a game-high four runs and scoring one of his own as the designated hitter.

UCI 3, UCR 2

UCI extended its record against UC schools to 7-2 on Saturday night, squeezing out a tight victory over the Highlanders in game two of the weekend series.

Shortstop D.J. Crumlich had two of the ’Eaters’ nine hits with an RBI, but struck out twice. However, in the top of the eighth, Crumlich doubled in the eventual game-winning run to secure the team’s 15th road win of the year.

“It’s definitely nice to rack up some road wins as the playoffs approach, because we will have to travel somewhere for Regionals and beat teams away from Anteater Ballpark,” Crumlich said of a team that is 22-2 at home, but is 15-12 on the road.

Ramirez was out earlier in the year with a concussion, but his head seems to be fine now, as he locked in on opposing pitchers last week. In the first three games of the week Ramirez was 6-10 with seven RBIs and a sacrifice fly.

Junior starter Crosby Slaught lowered his ERA from 4.24 to a more respectable 3.90 against Riverside, giving up two earned runs and seven base-runners in seven innings and improving to 7-1 on the season.

Although Slaught’s outing was far from no-hit quality, Slaught struck out six and worked out of jams throughout the evening.

Reliable freshman reliever Jimmy Litchfield took the ball in the eighth and tossed 1.2 innings without relinquishing a run before third baseman Hernandez closed it out, striking out the final batter for a one-out save, his 11th of the season.

“We’ve definitely gotten off to a good start this week with the SC game and then these two wins versus a good UCR team,” Crumlich said after the game. “Although the scores may not reflect it, both of these teams are solid and not easy wins. Tonight’s win was especially tough but good teams find ways to win one-run games like we did tonight.”

UCI 1, UCR 2

A superb start from Matt Whitehouse was spoiled by the Anteater bullpen in the series finale at UCR on May 22. In his second start of the week, Whitehouse allowed just four hits, striking out seven in seven innings.

Irvine’s middle relief struggled when Thurman entered in the bottom of the eighth and gave up the 1-0 lead. Leaving with a 1-1 tie after retiring just one batter, Litchfield took over and uncharacteristically gave up the tying run. Hernandez came in to relieve Litchfield, with one out still on the scoreboard, and shut down two straight Highlanders. But the damage had been done.

Down 2-1 after leading most of the game, the Anteaters were unable to respond in the ninth. Hernandez, Hillman and Fox were retired in order to end the game.

The loss dropped UCI to 37-14. With one week remaining in the regular season, a May 24 home game against UCLA and a weekend series against Long Beach State is all that remains before the NCAA selection committee determines UCI’s fate.

Last season, Irvine entered the Los Angeles Regional ranked No. 21 with a 37-19 record. Having won 11 of 13, UCI ends with a tough home stretch. At worst, the Anteaters can tie their 2010 record with a winless week. UCI has lost three of their last four against the Bruins; however, in 2010 the Anteaters swept the 49ers to end the season in Long Beach.

“I think the only thing that may have changed from the beginning of the year is the confidence of all of the guys,” Crumlich said after facing Riverside. “We have seen that we can play and beat anyone on our schedule, it’s just a matter of how well we play.”