School’s Out For Summers

Courtesy of UCI Athletics

UCI 2, LBSU 0

UC Irvine’s baseball program celebrated a rarity on Friday, May 27. Junior ace Matt Summers’ night ended with shaving cream all over his face as he threw the fourth no-hitter in UC Irvine baseball history, the second since 1974 and the last coming from Glenn Swanson in 2006. It was Summers’ second-straight complete-game shutout victory, and the first time in Dirtbag history that Long Beach has been no-hit in a nine-inning loss.

The Anteaters scored two runs on Friday night, with the first being the game winner in the fourth off of junior Christian Ramirez’s rocketed double over the right fielder’s head that scored junior Jordan Fox from first. Madigan later knocked in a run of his own in the fifth.

Throughout the season, Matt Summers’ goal has been to throw a complete game, but on Friday he did one better and firmly entrenched himself in the UCI record books.

“He’s made tons of progress and he’s made himself some money too,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said.

Seven outs in, Summers allowed his first runner of the game with one out in the third.

“I got a little too overexcited early on pitching against a good team and a good pitcher,” Summers said. “I’m really competitive and knew it was going to be a good battle. I settled down a little in the third and fourth.”

Surviving to the ninth, like any pitcher with a no-hitter could tell you, takes a strong supporting cast on defense. In the top of the fourth, leadoff hitter Matt Hibbert worked Summers to a full count. Hibbert then blooped Summers’ 3-2 offering into left field, where senior Drew Hillman came in charging to snag it. Madigan came up big for his pitcher out in right field in the fifth, getting on his horse to track down a line drive in the right-centerfield gap over his shoulder for the second out of the inning.

Summers took defense upon himself in the seventh. With one out, a Dirtbag popped up a bunt in no man’s land between the mound, first baseman and second baseman. Summers sprung off the mound and made a diving catch, colliding with Fox, to keep the no-no intact. Another threat was averted when Summers charged off the mound to field a nubber up the first-base line and flipped it to Fox just in time.

“He’s a freak athlete, that play he made was really not all that shocking,” Gillespie said.

In the eighth, a flyball sent Hillman to the warning track where he retired the first batter just shy of the foul pole in left field. The second out in the eighth may have seemed routine, but catcher Ronnie Shaeffer, who’s been struggling at the plate recently, came up clutch behind the plate, hanging on to a foul tip for the second out of the inning. Summers then hit a batter with a pitch with two outs, but retired the side, striking out Juan Avila with a nasty slider in the dirt.

Entering the ninth, the Anteater faithful rose to their feet and echoed, “Let’s go Summers!” as the righty took the mound.

“It was the longest inning of my life, I was just trying to breathe,” Summers said.

Long Beach sent another pinch hitter up for their final chance of breaking up the no-hitter. Brennan Fulkerson, a .261 hitter with 23 at-bats without an extra-base hit all season, stepped to the plate.

Fulkerson hit a doinker over the third baseman’s head on the next pitch, but the shortstop, D.J. Crumlich, was able to track it down just inside fair territory. The Anteaters swarmed their ace at the pitching mound and drove the pile toward first base – where only two Dirtbags stepped foot the entire evening.

“I’ll have to admit that for an instant I thought ‘Oh no,’ but it looked catchable pretty quick,” Gillespie said of the final out.

Against Riverside the previous start, Summers had a no-hit bid ended in the sixth. When he passed the six-inning mark against Long Beach, he knew he had something going.

“None of my teammates said anything to me in the dugout,” Summers said. “My dad and my fiancé had mentioned that I had a no-hitter at Riverside, so I made sure they knew, ‘Don’t do that again if it ever happens.’ … I was feeling it in about the sixth inning, about the same time that I had my no-hitter broken up against Riverside,” Summers said, having his sentence interrupted by a shaving-cream pie platter to the face, as all of his teammates roared.

Summers is now 10-2 on the season with a sparkling 1.74 earned run average, 90 strikeouts and a perfect 8-0 in conference.

As Summers entered the clubhouse to change out of his uniform and wash the shaving cream off his face, Alice Cooper’s song “School’s Out for Summer” played throughout Cicerone Field. With less than a week before the MLB Draft, Summers’ days at UCI are certainly numbered as the junior continues to project himself into the top rounds of the draft.

UCI 6, LBSU 8

The first batter of Saturday afternoon’s game lined a single into right field off of Anteater starter Matt Whitehouse, ending his no-hit bid instantly. Reyes later let a routine groundball go between his legs as the Dirtbags scored their first run of the series in the first.

UCI scored three runs in the second and took a 3-1 lead into the fifth. The Anteaters struggled, mustering just three runs in the final seven innings, while giving up seven earned runs in the last five innings – three of which came in the eighth.

Leyland, Hernandez, Hillman and Fox contributed two hits apiece for the Anteater offense. Hernandez was tacked with the loss (3-2) in relief with two earned runs allowed in one inning of work, evening the series at one.

UCI 0, LBSU 5

The Anteaters lost their first home weekend series of the year in the finale against Long Beach State. With first place in the Big West in the bag for Cal State Fullerton, Irvine still had a rounded out record of 40-15 to play for, but with just three hits of offensive support for starter Crosby Slaught, Irvine finished 39-15 in the regular season.

Fox had two of the lineup’s three hits, with his second coming with two outs in the ninth, but the six through nine hitters were 0-13 at the dish.

Slaught took the loss, throwing 5.2 innings with three earned runs allowed.

UCI 2, UCLA 1

On Tuesday, May 24, the Anteaters took on last year’s runner-up to the national championship, UCLA. UCI didn’t face Bruin juniors Gerrit Cole or Trevor Bauer, two first-round projections for the June 6 Major League Baseball draft, but rather Zack Weiss, who allowed just two runs and six base runners in seven innings.

Irvine’s starter Andrew Thurman outdueled Weiss, striking out a career-high nine batters in seven innings, but he left with a no decision. In the eighth, freshman Phillip Ferragamo struck out two and allowed a hit before being lifted for lefty Andy Lines. Recording a single out, Lines took the victory when senior Sean Madigan drove in the eventual game-winner in the bottom of the eighth, knocking in pinch runner Dillon Moyer. The freshman, Moyer, was running for junior designated hitter Jordan Leyland, who surprised the defense with a bunt single to start the rally.

In the ninth, senior Brian Hernandez shut the door with two strikeouts and a groundout for his 12th save of the season, ensuring a key victory over a top-25 program late in the season.

At 39-16, the Anteaters will compete at UCLA for the second straight year in the College World Series Regional. As the third of four seeds at Jackie Robinson Stadium, UCI enters a division that includes the UCLA Bruins, the Fresno State Bulldogs and the University of San Francisco Dons. Irvine starts off the Friday through Sunday double elimination formatted tournament against the Bulldogs on June 3 with only one team advancing to the Super Regionals. Last year UCI lost to UCLA in Los Angeles and failed to advance to the Super Regionals.