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Surging Shaeffer lifts UCI

Anteater's catcher drives in four runs and has six RBIs in two wins against Matadors.

April 02, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com

IRVINE — They are jokingly referred to as the tools of ignorance, but it is not as if UC Irvine junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer did not know.

No one had to remind the former freshman All-American that he had been scuffling at the plate, despite sparkling behind it.

But with the onset of Big West Conference play serving as a new season, Shaeffer seems to have clearly recaptured the form that helped him hit a combined .352 with seven homers and 67 runs batted in his first two seasons, which included 91 starts in 94 games.

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Shaeffer, who had four RBIs all season heading into Friday's Big West opener against Cal State Northridge, drove in four in the host Anteaters' 10-4 triumph Saturday. Shaeffer drove in two runs in Friday's 9-6 win. The six RBIs in two games ended a stretch of 17 games without driving in a run. He had just one RBI in his last 20 nonconference games, after driving in three in the season opener.

Shaeffer went two for four Saturday, including his first homer of the season, a two-run shot to left field in the second inning that erased the Matadors' 2-0 lead. He was also two for four Friday, with a two-run double. He is now hitting .267. Just five games ago, he had slipped to a season-low .230 after a one-for-18 stretch.

"I've been just battling through it," said Shaeffer, who while struggling as a hitter, has thrown out two-thirds of the 21 runners attempting to steal this season. He gunned down one more at second Saturday and would have notched a second victim, had not the slide dislodged the ball (and glove) from shortstop D.J. Crumlich.

"We've been winning a lot of games and that's all I really care about. I've been doing what I can behind the plate. When the bat wasn't there, I did the best I could to handle the pitching staff. I felt like I contributed that way. Hopefully, the bat keeps coming and I can add to it, offensively, too."

Shaeffer was one of five who had two hits for the Anteaters (17-6, 2-0 in conference), ranked No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN poll. Every starter had at least one hit for the winners, who have won three straight after a season-worst four-game losing streak that included two shutouts and limited offensive production.

Senior designated hitter Jon Hurst was two for four with two RBIs, while junior center fielder Christian Ramirez and senior right fielder Sean Madigan each went two for three and scored twice.

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