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College Baseball: Defense tops UCI victory

Highlight-reel catches abound for 'Eaters, who also use offense, pitching to win at LMU.

February 26, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

LOS ANGELES — You know it's a good day when the only struggle was determining just how many defensive plays earned web-gem distinction.

That was the case Tuesday for the UC Irvine baseball team, which produced positives with offense, defense and pitching to fuel a well-rounded discussion on the bus ride home from a 10-3 nonconference triumph at Loyola Marymount.

The No. 21-ranked Anteaters (7-1) lashed 14 hits and scored in six innings to pull away from the Lions (3-5), who had as little luck battling the visitors' gloves as the UCI bats and/or arms.

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UCI Coach Mike Gillespie identified five outstanding catches in what he termed a pretty spectacular defensive performance.

Two were made in center field by junior Dominique Taylor, who ranged in to make a lunging catch of a sinking liner that was magnified when he hurried to his feet and doubled off a runner at second base in the second inning.

In the seventh, Taylor retreated to make an over-the-shoulder grab for the first out of an inning that ended with freshman second baseman Grant Palmer angling into foul territory and sliding to catch a popup just in front of the fence near the LMU bullpen .

Sophomore Kris Paulino and senior Scott Gottschling both inspired oohs and ahs from spectators for their catches in right field. Paulino dived to haul in a looper just outside the foul line, about 100 feet behind first base. And Gottschling turned his back on the plate and ranged toward the warning track before smoothly collecting a fly ball over his shoulder.

"Those were five extraordinary catches," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who in the preseason had red-flagged defense as a potential weakness.

It was Taylor who suggested a sixth play merited highlight consideration, pointing out that sophomore catcher Jerry McClanahan fell backward toward the batter's box to snag a foul pop spinning behind him as he looked into the stands to track its flight.

It was the fourth errorless game this season for UCI, which has committed no more than one error in any contest and has yet to allow an unearned run.

Offensively, eight different players contributed hits, including senior first baseman Ronnie Shaeffer, the reigning Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week who was three for five with a home run and three runs batted in to lift his average to .486.

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