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College Baseball: UCI extend win streak to seven

Strong relief pitching helps UCI continue mound mastery and Paulino keys 10-hit attack vs. USC.

March 04, 2014|By Barry Faulkner

The so-called quality start has become downright quantifiable this season for the UC Irvine baseball team, which rode a completely serviceable pitching performance and some opportunistic hitting to its seventh straight victory Tuesday.

The 6-4 win over visiting USC (8-3), which has suddenly lost three of its last four, was the 12th time in as many games this season that UCI (9-3) has allowed three or fewer earned runs in the first six innings (the statistical definition of an individual quality start).

The four runs and 10 hits cobbled together by the Trojans against four UCI pitchers was the second-most accrued by an Anteaters' opponent this season (Fresno State scored five after the sixth in its 8-7 win in 13 innings on Feb. 15).

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Since then, UCI had allowed just 17 runs in 56 innings, coming into Tuesday, and no more than three runs in any game. Such mound mastery has allowed the 'Eaters to fashion a minuscule 1.36 team earned-run average coming into Tuesday.

That number was elevated slightly to 1.56, but was still easily enough to lead the Big West Conference (a much-heralded Cal State Fullerton staff entered Tuesday with a 2.05 ERA).

Junior starter Evan Manarino, who entered 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA, pitched three-plus, allowing five hits and three earned runs. But redshirt sophomore Kyle Davis, senior Jimmy Litchfield and junior Sam Moore combined for six innings of one-run relief to extend the winning streak.

Davis allowed three hits in 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Litchfield fanned three in his 1 2/3. Litchfield surrendered a run on a one-out double and a two-out single in the seventh, but he struck out two batters to leave runners at the corners when he entered the game in the sixth.

Moore, who now has a conference-best six saves, retired all six he faced to close out the win for Davis, 2-0.

"Pitching has been the story," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who was candid before the season began that he was concerned with what his mound corps might give him.

"I'm aware that we've been pitching well, but I did not have a handle on the [quality start stat]," said Gillespie, who has dispensed praise for his staff's excellence to second-year pitching coach and former Anteater All-American Danny Bibona.

But with USC leading, 3-0, in the middle of the fourth, it was UCI's offense that needed to assert itself.

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