Derek Smith pitched six strong innings as eighth-ranked Irvine beat Newport Harbor, 5-2, in a Sea View League opener Wednesday at Irvine High.
Smith (3-0), a senior right-hander, helped the Vaqueros begin defense of their league championship by keeping the Sailor batters off balance most of the day, effectively mixing an adequate fastball with a good change-up.
"Derek turned in a really gutsy performance," Irvine Coach Rich Crowe said.
Smith finished with eight strikeouts, gave up an earned run and six hits and walked two.
"He always has good command of his fastball and change," Crowe said. "This allows him to throw a change on a fastball count and a fastball on a change count, and that's what makes him successful."
Newport Harbor (3-2, 0-1) scored first, on an RBI double by Donovan Wong. The Sailors added a run in the fourth when Ryan Torrey singled home Wong, who was aboard on a error by shortstop Chris Lewis.
Irvine (5-1, 1-0) came back, scoring four runs in the fourth inning. Travis Nault and Chad Hazlett drove in runs with singles, a wild pitch by Sailor pitcher Cody Forsythe allowed Nault to score from third and Chris Lewis hit a sacrifice fly to score Hazlett.
The Vaqueros added an insurance run in the sixth inning when Keith Williams drilled a single to center to score Hazlett, who had gotten on with a bunt hit and then stole second.
Crowe had to sweat out a rocky seventh-inning performance by Vaquero reliever David Parker. Parker walked the bases loaded and with two out he struck out Forsythe to end the game and pick up his second save.
"Parker throws hard, but he had a little lapse of control," Crowe said. "He's still not a pitcher as much as a thrower."