IRVINE — UC Santa Barbara is known for its lively and frequent student celebrations, but the Gauchos were only sedate guests Saturday for what, this week, has become a UC Irvine Brock party.
Freshman Evan Brock, making his first weekend start after earning his first collegiate save with three perfect innings against UCLA on Tuesday, allowed just two hits in six innings to earn the win in an 8-1 Big West Conference triumph.
Brock, who had a no-hitter through five innings, walked three and struck out three. The lone Santa Barbara run was unearned.
Along with shutout relief appearances by Nick Hoover (two innings) and Kyle Hooper (one inning), the UCI staff has now gone 26 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
Senior first baseman Jeff Cusick, senior center fielder Sean Madigan and sophomore shortstop D.J. Crumlich were catalysts for an offense that produced all of its runs with two outs.
Cusick belted a two-run homer in the first inning to get the Anteaters (32-16, 12-5 in conference) on their way. Cusick has eight home runs and 54 RBIs to lead the team.
Madigan was two for four with three runs batted in and Crumlich went two for three with a pair of doubles and two RBIs.
But pitching, particularly the continued emergence of Brock on a weekend in which UCI shuffled its starting rotation due to senior All-American Danny Bibona sitting out with strained rib muscles, continues to be the story.
"I'm kind of liking that [Brock] is more aggressive and kind of pitching with a little more assertiveness," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said. "I think it is probably about gaining confidence. He really mixed three pitches and threw pretty good strikes with all of them.
When he got in trouble, his history a few weeks ago would have been to crack. But he didn't, so that was good stuff."
Brock, who in his last four outings of at least four innings has given up just five hits and two earned runs in 21 1/3 combined innings, said his recent success has fostered a greater comfort level.
"I've felt good on the mound lately," said Brock, who is 4-4 with a 2.61 earned-run average. "I'm glad I'm becoming more consistent. I'm definitely getting a lot more confidence and that helps me a lot with the mental game. I don't get as flustered … I could get used to this weekend stuff."
The series concludes today at 1 p.m.
Big West Conference UC Irvine 8, UCSB 1 SCORE BY INNINGS
UCSB000100000 — 140UCI 22100300X — 8111Loredo, Davis (4), Brady (7), Phippen (9) and Camou, Hansen (7); Brock, Hoover (7), Hooper (9) and Larson. W – Brock, 4-4. L – Loredo, 0-4. 2B – Hernandez (UCI), Crumlich (UCI) 2, Stevenson (UCI), Eligio (UCSB), Williams (UCSB). HR – Cusick (UCI).