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Spencer, Surrey key UCI baseball win

College Baseball

UCI first baseman stays hot and its starting pitcher continues roll to clinch Big West Conference-opening series victory.

March 29, 2014|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine's Connor Spencer connects for a single in the seventh inning during a Big West Conference game against UC Riverside on Saturday. (Scott Smeltzer - Daily Pilot)
UC Irvine's Connor Spencer connects for a single… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

A baseball adage as old as wool uniforms states that the breaks of the game, the highs and lows, the hot and cold stretches, all even out over the course of a season. UC Irvine junior first baseman Connor Spencer can, thank goodness, finally attest to just that.

After beginning the season hitless in his first 19 at-bats, the 2013 Big West Conference batting champion has righted himself. He is 11 for 16 over his last four games, including a two-for-four performance Saturday to lead the Anteaters to a 4-2 win over visiting UC Riverside.

The victory, which included a second consecutive impressive start by sophomore pitcher Elliot Surrey, and a nation-leading 11th save from Sam Moore, clinched the three-game series for the 'Eaters (18-8, 2-0 in conference), who are tied for the conference lead with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Long Beach State.

Spencer was one of seven Anteaters to contribute to the eight-hit attack, but the lone UCI player to get more than one. His line-drive single to center field that drove in Grant Palmer, who led off the fifth inning with a single and moved to third on a Kris Paulino single, was the game-winning run batted in. It was Spencer's 18th RBI of the season, second on the team to All-American Taylor Sparks (22).

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Spencer, who added a single in the seventh to continue a four-game binge that included a four-for-four night with his only home run of the season at Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday, has upped his batting average from .316 to .379 in that stretch.

"He's a really good hitter," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie who pointed out that among juniors who began their Division I collegiate career in 2012, Spencer has the nation's best cumulative batting average (.350) That mark spans 477 at-bats, including a .373 mark to earn second-team all-conference recognition last season.

"That's a big deal," Gillespie said.

Gillespie said like Spencer, he was confident that his No. 3 hitter would climb out of his early funk.

"I certainly would have preferred that he start the season 15 for 20, but you'd have to believe [he would come around] because there is no obvious weakness. He's not a mess on off-speed [pitches], he's hard to jam, he gets to pitches and he's confident too, always has been.

"I almost wish he wasn't that good," Gillespie said of Spencer. "I was dreaming for a long time that we'd hold onto him [rather than being drafted by a major league team in June]. But that dream has turned into a nightmare."

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