Thurman Nearly Unhittable, All Downhill From There

Marlin Agoub/Staff Photographer

UCI 3, CSUF 5

 

It was a series that manager Mike Gillespie deemed critical. The UC Irvine baseball team (18-14) dropped two of three games to No. 12 Cal State Fullerton (23-12) over the weekend, losing the final two games after a brilliant pitching performance from sophomore starter Andrew Thurman in game one.

A spring storm postponed the first of three rivalry games on Friday evening, setting up a doubleheader on Saturday.

After splitting Saturday’s double feature, the Anteaters had a chance to show the nation that despite being swept by Cal Poly and a disappointing record, the ’Eaters still had some postseason magic up their sleeves in the rubber match on Sunday.

Despite capitalizing on a Titans error and jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second, UCI couldn’t put together a rally in the late innings as Fullerton held them scoreless in the last three frames. UCI mustered just three hits in the series finale; the ’Eaters were outscored 19-9 in the series.

CSUF prevailed, 5-3, improving to 7-2 in the Big West, while Irvine dropped to 4-5 in conference.

“This was a very, very, very, very important series and we’re hugely disappointed,” Gillespie said.

“This was a winnable game,” he continued. “It’s easy to keep plugging away when things are rosy and going your way. (Pause) But we’ll keep fighting.”

The presumptive Anteaters ace coming into the 2012 season was junior Matt Whitehouse. A few nagging injuries, including a blistered finger, have kept the southpaw out of action throughout most of the season.

Whitehouse was expected to appear on Sunday afternoon but according to Gillespie, the lefty came up in pain just 45 minutes before the ballgame.

Another lefty toed the rubber instead, as sophomore Jimmy Litchfield started the afternoon off for the ’Eaters. Litchfield, typically a late inning reliever, tossed 2.2 innings and was lifted for sophomore righty Phillip Ferragamo after surrendering two runs in the top of the third.

Ferragamo took the ball and dominated the Titans for three innings. But with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Fullerton finally got to the 6-foot-9-inch hurler. Anthony Hutting lined a double down into the left-field corner. The next batter, designated hitter J.D. Davis, launched a two-run home run that easily cleared the Fiat and DeMarini advertisements in left field, putting the Titans up 4-2.

Ferragamo finished the inning, along with the seventh, but the damage was done. The righty’s final line included two earned runs, six hits and two walks in 4.2 innings.

UCI responded to Fullerton’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth as senior first baseman Jordan Fox sent a shot into the right-centerfield gap and just beat the tag into third base for a triple. Kris Paulino then rolled over a ground ball, getting the job done and bringing Fox home from third.

Fullerton would add another run in the top of the eighth with a chopper over third baseman Dillon Moyer’s head.

In the top of the ninth, junior closer Race Parmenter got some work in, keeping the game within reach. Parmenter struck out the side with 12 pitches. His stuff was filthy, but heading into the bottom of the ninth, it was all riding on the Anteaters’ Achilles heel – the bats.

Three straight ninth inning UCI groundouts sent the Titans home one win wealthier.

At the plate, Irvine couldn’t get it done throughout the series. On Sunday afternoon, it was nothing different. Catcher Jerry McClanahan was the lone Anteater to strike out, but the fly balls weren’t dropping, the line drives weren’t missing gloves and the ground balls didn’t turn into seeing-eye-singles for the ’Eaters.

The postgame huddle was quick because the UCI staff didn’t have much to say after losing its fifth of six games.

“I’m not a clever speech writer,” Gillespie said when asked about the concise postgame debriefing.

 

UCI 2, CSUF 13

 

In the second half of a Saturday doubleheader, the Anteaters were embarrassed by the Cal State Fullerton Titans, surrendering a season-high 13 runs to even the series at one apiece. Pitching was crucial on Saturday afternoon in the second of a three-game series. After Andrew Thurman tossed an absolute gem, holding the Titans to one hit in game one, pitching fell short for a ballclub that routinely struggles offensively.

Fullerton jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two innings before pouring on three more to make it an insurmountable 11-run deficit in the third.

Senior starter Crosby Slaught was lit up for four hits, three walks and five earned runs. Slaught was chased from the game in the second inning after tossing just 1.2 innings.

Senior Nick Hoover and junior Mark Trentacosta couldn’t do much better. Hoover allowed three more earned runs before recording the final out of the second inning. The senior faced six batters, giving up a triple and a double in 0.1 innings.

Trentacosta, a Golden Coast College transfer, ate up some mop-up relief innings after the damage was done, giving up three earned runs in three innings before giving way to sophomore Evan Brock in the sixth.

Brock was a breath of fresh air in the evening beat-down. Had the Ayala High School alumnus started, the Anteaters may have had a chance. Brock threw three nearly perfect innings. The lone blemish was a hit batsman in Brock’s hitless sixth, seventh and eighth. Striking out the side in the eighth, Brock left the ballgame on a high note, having K’d five of 10 batters without allowing a hit.

In 31 games, the Anteaters scored 13 runs just twice. Expecting an Irvine offense that averages 4.7 runs per game to put up 13 against Fullerton’s Kenny Mathews — a freshman southpaw who is 4-0 with a 3.10 earned run average — was too much to ask.

At the plate, the usual suspects led the way for the ’Eaters. Seniors D.J. Crumlich, Tommy Reyes and Jordan Fox, hitting 1-2-3, were a combined 4-12. Crumlich recorded two hits, upping his season average to .328, while Reyes and Fox each added a hit of their own, along with an RBI apiece.

The rest of the lineup was 3-23, for a .130 average, failing to pick up the faltering pitching staff’s game two performance.

 

UCI 4, CSUF 1

 

Just prior to the season, manager Mike Gillespie was scratching his head, uncertain whether two of his young starters — Andrew Thurman and Matt Whitehouse — would be contributing to the ballclub or shelved due to injuries. On Saturday afternoon, Thurman eased some tension in the clubhouse with a brilliant pitching performance that was reminiscent of Matt Summers’ nine inning no-hitter in 2011 against the Anteaters’ other Big West rivals, the Long Beach State Dirtbags.

UCI only needed two runs on Saturday afternoon, but the hitters put up four for good measure. Scoreless in the fifth, Irvine broke the game open with three hits, including an RBI single from senior second baseman Tommy Reyes. Irvine added two more in the sixth and one in the seventh as Christian Ramirez, Jordan Fox and Kris Paulino each had 2-4 days at the plate with one run each.

The star of the afternoon, however, was not in the batter’s box, but on the mound. Thurman was coming off of a tough loss at Cal Poly the previous Friday, in which the righty allowed six earned runs in five innings. At Cal Poly, Thurman couldn’t get out of jams, throwing 90 pitches in those five innings and allowing nine hitters to reach base.

The phenom who once silenced the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers in the 2011 NCAA Superregional rose to the occasion once again on Saturday afternoon against the No. 12 Titans. Thurman entered the ninth inning of Saturday’s game with a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead.

Up came Fullerton’s junior left fielder Austin Kingsolver. 0-1 with a sacrifice bunt earlier in the contest, Kingsolver, like so many no-hit spoilers is by no means a masher at the plate. Hitting just .247 with a .301 slugging percentage in 2012, his numbers have been nothing to write home about. But the Dana Hills High School alumnus took a memory away from Thurman in the ninth and made it his own.

The lefty chopped Thurman’s offering high over the mound, reaching base on a Texas-leaguer that spoiled the sophomore pitcher’s fun.

“That was the closest I have ever come to throwing a no-hitter,” Thurman said.

102 pitches in, Thurman reached the end of his tight leash. Having surpassed his pitch count and reached a career-high eight innings pitched, Thurman was lifted for sophomore southpaw Jimmy Litchfield. The Anteater coaching staff would have let their starter finish the contest with a no-no, but the Fullerton hit chased the sophomore to the showers. As Thurman exited the mound, Cicerone Field stood and roared for its starting pitcher.

“My coaches said it was a well-pitched game, [Beating] Fullerton is great for confidence,” Thurman said after the outing.

Still leading 4-0, Litchfield walked the only batter that he faced on six pitches. Freshman Race Parmenter emerged from the bullpen, sacrificing a run for a double play to slow the bleeding. Up 4-1, Parmenter locked down his fourth save of the season when Fullerton’s Michael Lorenzon grounded out to third base, finishing off the one-hitter and giving Thurman his third win of the season.

Irvine will travel to Long Beach for a crucial three-game Big West series at Blair Field starting on April 20.

“Long Beach can pitch better than anyone we’ll see,” Gillespie said. “I have no complaints with how we battled [against Fullerton]. There’s really only one good choice, it’s to keep our heads up and deal with the disappointment.”

At 18-14, the Anteaters are a shadow of what they were when they started 23-9 in 2011, but Ferragamo and his teammates have seen struggles before.

“We got in a funk last year too,” Ferragamo said. “Hopefully we’re in the hunt at the end of the season, so we can make a run [again].”