Highlanders Hit Rock Bottom at UCI
UCI 9, UCR 2
Dating back to 2009, the Anteaters are 28-1 in Big West series openers — UC Riverside being the latest victim. The Anteaters rolled past the Highlanders on Friday, April 27 in the series opener of the weekend series thanks to a rejuvenated offense and domination on the mound.
Seniors Tommy Reyes and D.J. Crumlich combined for seven hits, four RBIs, six runs and two stolen bases in the 9-2 Anteater victory. Reyes, who missed the previous four games due to the death of his brother, led the Anteaters with a perfect 4 for 4 night.
“I missed being around the guys,” Reyes said. “It’s fun to be back. There’s nothing better than being around them and doing something I love, that’s baseball.”
One week removed from throwing UC Irvine’s fifth no-hitter, sophomore Andrew Thurman tossed his second consecutive complete game, allowing one earned run on five hits and striking out six UCR batters. Thurman, who surrendered two early runs in the first inning, maintained his composure and shut-out the Highlanders for the next eight innings.
“[Thurman] was good,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said. “He was more efficient with his three pitches and he’s getting better. I feel like he had more confidence in this game than the last two wins. With success comes confidence. He’s shown better presence and more confidence [on the mound] and he’s more aggressive. [Tonight] he didn’t lack any poise and really showed his maturity.”
Thurman, who has allowed just six hits and two earned runs in his last 26 innings of work, has a microscopic 0.69 ERA over that span. With only a few Friday starts remaining on the schedule, Thurman will look to improve his 5-2 record and perhaps make a run at the Big West Pitcher of the Year title, an accomplishment an Anteater has won the last four years.
“My focus has been on just keeping the ball down and changing speeds to keep batters off-balance,” Thurman said about his recent success. “I’m just trying to go out there and let my team mates make the plays behind me.”
The Anteaters trailed after the first inning two to one, but in the third inning the Anteater bats came to life. Freshman Taylor Sparks led off the inning with a bunt single to the third baseman who failed to get Sparks out at first. D.J. Crumlich followed with a single down the left side.
With runners on first and second, Tommy Reyes roped a hard single to the left fielder, who charged the ball but allowed it to sneak by his glove and roll all the way to the left-field wall. Sparks and Crumlich scored on the single and Reyes hustled to round all the bags and take home on the error, giving Irvine the 4-2 lead.
The next batter, senior first baseman Jordan Fox, followed with a hard grounder up the middle, which was misplayed, allowing him to take second. Freshman Conner Spencer cashed in for his second RBI of the game on the Highlander error, scoring Fox with an RBI single.
Irvine would also get contributions from Fox, who knocked in a run in the fourth, and Jeff Stephens, who singled in the sixth to extend the Anteater lead 8-2. As a team the Anteaters combined for 13 hits on the night.
“Offensively it was one of those good games,” Gillespie said. “We got our bunts down and were able to get contributions from several guys. It’s a fun game when you get hits from half a dozen players. I was glad to see Tommy Reyes back. He had had a really good night.”
UCI 2, UCR 0
After erupting for nine runs in the first game of the series, UCI did just enough to take the second game of the series against UCR. Tommy Reyes continued his hot hitting, going 3 for 4 from the plate and scoring UCI’s only two runs of the game. Connor Spencer and Jordan Fox were the lone RBI-guys for Irvine, combining for half of the Anteaters’ eight hits and responsible for driving in Reyes both times.
Senior right-handed pitcher Crosby Slaught, was nearly-unhittable on the mound on Saturday, surrendering one hit and striking out four with 84 pitches in seven shut-out innings of work, improving his record to 5-4. With this win, Slaught also moved into a tie for 11th place for the most career wins by a pitcher in UCI history with 21.
Junior right-handed pitcher, Race Parmenter, closed the door on the Highlanders, coming in for relief in the eighth inning and picking up his fifth save of the season.
Both teams were held scoreless until the sixth inning when Reyes roped a ball into the left field gap for a stand-up double. Fox would line a one-out RBI single down the left side to give Irvine their first run of the game. It would be the only run necessary to secure the victory.
The Anteaters would get an insurance run in the eighth inning on a two-out double by Tommy Reyes. After issuing an intentional walk to Jordan Fox, the Highlanders opted to face designated-hitter Connor Spencer, who made them pay with a single up the middle to score Reyes from second.
Spencer, who went 2 for 4 for the game, leads the Anteaters in batting average and continues to produce in the clean-up spot.
“I’m always ready to compete,” Spencer said. “I’m usually looking fastball and ready to adjust to the off-speed pitch. But it’s really all about having the right mentality because the guy on the mound has worked just as hard as you.”
“He’s had a really good year,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said. “He’s been very important all year. He’s been the star. The kid can hit and really has a knack of putting the barrel [of the bat] on the ball. He’s a strong kid.”
The Anteaters, who are on the verge of missing the postseason for the first time in seven seasons, have fought hard game in and game out in a season plagued with injuries. For Gillespie, however, keeping the team motivated hasn’t been too difficult.
“I’m really proud of them,” Gillespie said. “It’s been a very frustrating and difficult year, but they know that we do it right. There’s no upset in winning. This team has a lot of pride and they’re staying after it.”
UCI 6 UCR 5
In the bottom of the 11th inning, freshman Chris Robago smacked a game-winning single to shallow center to score Christian Ramirez, giving UCI a 6-5 victory over UCR and their third series sweep over the season. The Anteaters (23-17 overall) are now 8-7 in the Big West and will visit San Diego State, facing them for the second time this season beginning Tuesday, May 1 at 6:00 p.m.
With the game tied 2-2, Jerry McClanahan crushed a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning to help the Anteaters take a 4-2 lead.
Ferragamo controlled the game in six innings of work, striking out six batters and surrendering only three hits and two runs. But in the top of the seventh, Ferragamo was replaced after putting runners on first and second. Mitch Merten failed to control the damage, surrendering a base-clearing three-run double to tie the game 5-5.
Race Parmenter threw two innings of scoreless relief in the 10th and 11th innings before Robago hit the game-winner to earn the win.