BYU 1, UCI 3
UC Irvine opened up their series against Brigham Young University on Thursday, March 8, defeating the Cougars with strong outings from their pitchers and defense to back a struggling offense.
Junior Kyle Hooper (3-0), who replaced an injured Matt Whitehouse, pitched an impressive six innings, scattering four hits while striking out seven batters and walking just one, while junior Scott Gottschling had Irvine’s lone run-scoring hit in an evening where the ’Eaters’ bats were cold as the chilly weather.
The Anteaters tallied all three runs off Gottschling’s hit in the first inning. After a one-out double from Christian Ramirez, Connor Spencer and Kris Paulino each drew two-out walks to load the bases. The next batter, Gottschling, then laced a double into left field to clear the bases.
After holding BYU scoreless for four innings, Hooper gave up back-to-back singles to put runners at first and third. The Cougars’ Tanner Chauncey then grounded out to Taylor Sparks at third to score the Cougars’ only run of the evening.
The run in the fifth inning broke Hooper’s streak of 22.2 innings without allowing an earned run.
Sophomore Phillip Ferragamo faced trouble in the ninth inning after putting runners on first and third with two outs, but Jimmy Litchfield came in to record with a save by inducing a fly out.
After the game, head coach Mike Gillespie praised Gottschling for his clutch hit and cited the defense as integral to the win, especially on nights where the offense struggles.
“The play that Sparks made … if he doesn’t make that play, that could have turned into a big inning. And of course, the double play was a giant play by all three guys,” Gillespie said.
Coach Gillespie addressed the issues the team faces going on, focusing primarily on the lack of offense.
“Clearly, the issue we’re trying hard to address is our lack of offensive production,” he said. “I think part of it is explained by the fact that we have faced some really good pitching. However, we’re trying to grind it out and get more offense.”
“We just have to stay at it. We are playing some young guys, and there is a learning curve.”
BYU 6, UCI 1
In the second game of their series against BYU, the Anteaters’ offense struggled again, only this time without the pitching to back up the bats.
Sophomore Andrew Thurman (0-1) took the loss Friday night, pitching six innings, striking out four while giving up two runs on six hits with no walks.
BYU starter Mark Anderson (3-0) was a step ahead, however, as he held the ’Eater offense to only one run off two hits in 5.2 innings. In all, the ’Eaters would only notch one more hit in the last three innings of the game.
Junior Jeff Stephens went two for three at the plate and scored the only run in the fifth for the Anteaters. After leading off with a double, he advanced to third on a sacrifice fly and scored on a squeeze bunt from freshman Taylor Sparks, tying the game at 1-1.
BYU would retake the lead in the sixth, led by the Cougars’ Brock Whitney, who drove in five runs on three for four hitting. Whitney followed his run-scoring single in the fourth with another RBI in the sixth for the lead, and in the seventh, he cleared the bases with a double for three more RBIs as the Cougars pulled away with four runs in the seventh with a 6-1 lead.
The Anteaters failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities, leaving eight men on base for the game.
BYU 2, UCI 9
If Friday night was a glaring example of the team’s weaknesses, Saturday afternoon was a showcase of what the Anteater team could look like with strong output from both pitching and offense. The Anteaters beat up on the Cougars to clinch the three-game series with a score of 9-2.
The ’Eaters’ offense had seven hits in the first two games of the series combined, and they doubled that output in one game with 14. The pitching also held BYU to only two runs off seven hits.
Senior shortstop D.J. Crumlich broke out of a 0-8 slump and led the hit party with three hits and two RBI. Junior left fielder Jeff Stephens went two for four with two RBI, and senior Jordan Fox had three hits and an RBI. Taylor Sparks then iced the cake with a solo home run in the fifth to cap an explosion of eight runs in five innings.
The Anteaters began their offensive work early off of BYU starter Adam Miller (1-1), as Fox singled in Tommy Reyes from first base with one out to begin the scoring. Crumlich tallied both of his RBIs in the second inning, hitting a two-out double to bring in Stephens and Sparks. That brought an early end to Miller’s night after only two innings.
The ’Eaters broke out with four-run rally in the fourth inning, sending nine batters to the plate that inning.
After Sparks’ home run in the fifth, the Anteaters scored their ninth run in the eighth with Stephens singling in Ryan Cooper.
Senior Crosby Slaught notched his second win of the season (2-2) with six shutout innings, including a stretch of 10 straight batters he retired. Slaught struck out five Cougars, giving up a hit to Alex Wolfe, who would become Slaught’s lone earned run, in the seventh before being pulled.