Sam Moore may have lost a decision just 24 hours previous, but he didn't lose what has made him the most productive closer in the nation this season.
The UC Irvine junior got the final four outs to preserve the host Anteaters' 3-0 nonconference baseball victory over San Diego State on Friday.
"There are two things to like about [Moore]," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said after Moore notched his NCAA-best 16th save of the campaign, one night after coughing up his first blown save. "His split and his swagger."
Moore, who helped starter Elliot Surrey cash in the victory to improve to 6-2, said he was anxious to get the ball again with the game on the line.
"We tried to make him understand, that this happens," Gillespie said of his one-on-one postgame conference with Moore after the Aztecs rallied from a 1-0 deficit for a 3-1 win in the series opener on Thursday. "I [told Moore] we've got to have you know that you are the right guy and that you can't question who you are."
Moore is now just one save away from trying the school single-season record shared by Blair Erickson and Eric Pettis.
The Anteaters were also true to their team identity, winning with standout pitching and just enough hitting to scratch across some runs.
Junior first baseman Connor Spencer's two-out single in the third inning got the hosts (25-13) on the scoreboard. Then, three hits and a throwing error helped UCI double the advantage in the fourth.
UCI added an insurance run in the eighth when Spencer was hit by a pitch and Taylor Sparks doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. After a foul popup, Jonathan Munoz was intentionally walked and pinch-hitter Mikey Duarte delivered a two-strike bunt single on a safety squeeze play to finalize the scoring. Duarte had bunted through the second strike and Spencer appeared to be caught in a rundown off of third base. But Spencer beat the catcher back to the bag and the other UCI runners retreated to their respective bases with the other infielders out of position.
Surrey, after a March 15 loss at Nebraska that dropped him to 1-2, was in danger of losing his weekend rotation spot. But since, he has won five consecutive starts, surrendering just three earned runs and 22 hits in 36 2/3 innings. He has struck out 28 during that span, including five on Friday.
Surrey, who allowed our hits for the fourth time in those five starts, pitched 7 1/3 innings and threw 101 pitches against the Aztecs (27-12). He allowed only one runner to reach second base, which put him in his only jam in the fifth inning.
With one out, Danny Sheehan doubled and Ryan Muno was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners up one base, but Surrrey induced a popup to end the threat.
UCI turned two double plays and three pitchers – Matt Fielding retired the only batter he faced in the eighth – combined to issue just one walk.
"I thought Surrey was really good," Gillespie said. "That's an all-right-handed-hitting lineup and a good hitting lineup [.288 coming in, 10 points better than UCI]. I'm very impressed with what he did."
Spencer, designated hitter Jonathan Munoz and center fielder Evan Cassolato were all two for three to spearhead a 10-hit attack for the winners. It's the first time in five games that UCI has reached double-digit hits.
A pregame ceremony scheduled to recognize Gillespie for his 1,000th career Division I victory as a head coach, achieved earlier this season, was postponed and has yet to be rescheduled.
The series, which UCI has clinched and has now won six of eight three-game series this season, concludes Saturday at 1 p.m.
UC Irvine 3, San Diego State 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
SDSU 000 000 000 – 0 5 2
UCI 001 100 000 – 3 10 2