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Morales, offense key UCI

College Baseball

Senior throws four-hit shutout and Anteaters bang out season-high 17 hits in Big West opener.

March 28, 2014|By Barry Faulkner

Undefeated at UC Irvine and untouchable at home, Anteaters senior pitcher Andrew Morales continued his mound mastery Friday night, blanking UC Riverside, 8-0, in the Big West Conference baseball opener at Anteater Ballpark.

Morales, who is 5-0 this season and 15-0 in his UCI career, struck out 12 to tie a career high, and allowed just four hits for his second straight complete-game shutout. He has yet to allow an earned run in 40 innings at home this season and has surrendered an earned run in only one of his seven starts (three at Nebraska).

Morales, who came with an 0.62 earned-run average, saw that dip to 0.44 after throwing 112 pitches and facing three over the minimum. In 51 1/3 innings in 2014, he has allowed 27 hits, only four for extra bases (all doubles). He has fanned 56 and walked 12.

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As good as Morales was, and UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said it may have been his best outing of the season, the offense was nearly as impressive.

UCI banged out a season-high 17 hits, including at least one from all nine spots in the lineup, and scored in four different innings. The outburst saddled Highlanders starter Jacob Smigelski, who came in with a 1.26 ERA, with the loss. Smigelski allowed 14 hits and seven runs, all earned, in six innings. His ERA ballooned to 3.59.

"This was clearly our best game of the season," Gillespie said. "It's a conference game, so its most important. I told [the players in the postgame meeting] that when the score was 3-0 after six innings, before we had the add-on runs, I felt like it was our best offensive game, because we had hits down through the lineup."

Junior Taylor Sparks, playing shortstop for the first time in his UCI career due to Chris Rabago jamming his shoulder Tuesday at Cal State Bakersfield, was three for four with three runs batted in and one run. Sparks increased his team-leading RBI total to 21 and upped his batting average 35 points to .350.

Sophomore third baseman Jonathan Munoz, now hitting .440 in 25 at-bats, was three for four with two doubles and two RBIs.

Junior first baseman Connor Spencer was three for four with two runs scored. Spencer, last year's Big West batting champion, is now nine for 12 in his last three games. Despite opening the season zero for 16 and two for 23, he is batting .389.

Junior right fielder Kris Paulino was two for two with one RBI and junior catcher Jerry McClanahan was two for five with one RBI to round out the offensive standouts for the Anteaters (17-8).

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