But for what appeared to be a shoulder strain sustained by junior first baseman Jordan Fox, which prompted the team's batting leader to be removed from the game after his second at-bat, the 'Eaters found plenty to enhance the upbeat mood they will take into the biggest series of the regular season.
UCI opens a three-game Big West Conference set at Cal State Fullerton on Friday at 7 p.m. The Titans were 20-8 with 12 wins in their last 13 games heading into the week. Saturday's game is at 6 p.m., with Sunday's series finale set for 2 p.m.
"We always get a little excited for that [series]," junior starter Crosby Slaught said of the first-place showdown with the Titans.
Slaught, who had missed just more than three weeks with tendinitis in his rotator cuff, gave UCI players, coaches and fans ample reason to be excited about his return to the rotation. He allowed one hit in three innings to earn the win. He is 4-0 this season and 12-0 as a starter during his collegiate career.
He said jitters surrounding his return led to him walking the first hitter on five pitches. He then retired six straight and nine of the next 10, before calling it a day.
Gillespie said Slaught's performance cast his name into the mix to make the start Sunday at Fullerton. That decision will be made later, Gillespie said, based on a number of factors, including how Slaught feels today.
"I'm ready to go against Fullerton," Slaught said.
Freshman Phil Ferragamo worked four innings, allowing just two hits. He walked one and struck out two.
Freshman Jimmy Litchfield worked the eighth, surrendering one hit, before freshman Drew Sandler struck out two in a perfect ninth in his collegiate mound debut.