'Eaters' relievers struggle

College Baseball

Three UCI relievers allow runs, including Dirtbags' game-changing three-run homer in eighth inning.

May 28, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,

IRVINE — For the second straight day, the lone player on the winning team's roster from the Grand Canyon State proved to be the difference in the Big West Conference baseball series between visiting Long Beach State and UC Irvine.

Saturday at Anteater Ballpark, a three-run home run by Dirtbags' senior Matt Hibbert in the eighth inning that erased a 6-4 deficit and keyed the visitors' 8-6 win, helped expose a UCI bullpen that has been the source of some peaks and valleys this season.

Hibbert, from Chandler, Ariz., was three for five with three runs batted in to help the Dirtbags (28-27, 11-12 in the Big West) even the series.


Friday, it was UCI junior Matt Summers, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., who stole the show by pitching a no-hitter to collect a 2-0 triumph.

Three UCI relievers gave up runs Saturday, including senior closer Brian Hernandez, who surrendered the three-run homer to blow the save and absorb the loss.

In the last five losses for No. 24-ranked UCI (39-15, 16-7), the bullpen has surrendered the lead in the eighth (twice), the ninth (three times) and allowed the winning run to break a tie twice in the 10th inning.

Three times in those five losses, including Saturday, the UCI relievers' inability to finish has cost sophomore left-hander Matt Whitehouse what would have been a victory. Summers and senior Crosby Slaught also lost would-be wins after some late leakage by the 'Eaters' pen.

"We have concern over this deal," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of the bullpen's failures, though relievers have helped UCI secure 37 of UCI's wins this season (Summers has the only two complete games), including 12 saves from Hernandez. "I just thought [Saturday] was a poor pitching performance all the way around."

Gillespie said Whitehouse, who allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits through five-plus innings, did not have his best stuff.

Freshman Phil Ferragamo, who was not charged with a run, gave up two hits while getting two outs in the sixth.

Freshman Jimmy Litchfield (two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings), Hernandez (two runs in one inning) and sophomore Kyle Hooper (one run on two hits in one inning) all helped UCI lose its chance to earn any portion of the conference title.

UCI entered Saturday one game behind Cal State Fullerton. But the Titans' 6-0 win, combined with the UCI loss, gives Fullerton a two-game lead with one game left in the regular season.

Three Dirtbags had three hits to help the visitors amass 15 hits.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles