IRVINE — When rain finally prompted umpires to pull the plug on UC Irvine's 15-3 nonconference baseball victory over visiting Nevada on Saturday, the Anteaters' players raced from the dugout to place the white tarpaulin over the infield with just one out in the ninth.
When it was quickly learned that the game would not resume, one might have suggested it was a white flag that was a more fitting display for the Wolf Pack, against whom UCI has amassed 32 runs and 34 hits in the first two games of the season.
Junior first baseman Jordan Fox had a career-high five runs batted in for the winners (2-0), who received three hits apiece from junior shortstop D.J. Crumlich, senior left fielder Drew Hillman and junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer. Crumlich, who like Hillman drove in a run, scored four times and has seven runs in 2011.
Senior third baseman Brian Hernandez was two for four with two RBIs. He reached base five times and scored twice and has now reached base 10 times in the series, creating plenty of quality time with his younger brother Hugo, Nevada's junior first baseman.
It was a defensive play made by Brian Hernandez in the first inning that may have been the key in sophomore starting pitcher Kyle Hooper's first collegiate victory.
With runners at second and third base with one out, Hernandez fielded a chopper near the bag. Noticing the Nevada runner was still scrambling back toward third, Hernandez reached out and tagged him before throwing to first to complete the double play.
"That was a baseball players' play," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said.
Hooper worked himself out of a jam in the second, striking out Jamison Rowe looking to leave the bases loaded. Hooper, who had a 7.61 earned-run average in 23 2/3 innings as a freshman, when he allowed 45 hits, gave up seven hits and two earned runs in five innings in his first collegiate start. He struck out five and walked one.
"He did well," Gillespie said of the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander, who threw 50 of his 75 pitches for strikes. "He's a guy who has made a lot of progress and I liked what he did."
UCI relievers Nick Hoover, Andy Lines and Jimmy Litchfield combined for 4 1/3 innings of one-run relief to seal the win.
But the story, once again, was the offense. The 34 runs in back-to-back games has been bettered just twice in UCI history, the last time in 1979 when the 'Eaters thumped Utah in a doubleheader by a combined 35-0 margin. UCI scored 34 in back-to-back games in 1981 against UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles.
Senior right fielder Sean Madigan had a three-run double on his way to four RBIs. He now shares the team RBI lead with Fox with seven.
Fox and Shaeffer are both five for nine this season, while Hernandez is four for eight and Hillman is four for 10.
"There were lots of hits up and down the lineup," Gillespie said.
Despite the lopsided score, UCI's lead was tenuous heading into the seventh.
After Nevada second baseman Brian Barnett boomed his second homer of the season over the center-field fence in the fifth to trim UCI's lead to 3-2, the hosts scored in the fifth to make it 4-2.
Nevada closed to within 4-3 with a run in the sixth, but UCI scored twice in the sixth to create a 6-3 cushion.
The Anteaters then sent 13 batters to the plate in an eight-run seventh inning.
In addition to the 15 hits, Nevada pitchers issued six walks and hit five batters. UCI has received 14 walks and been hit six times in the series.
The final game of the series is scheduled today at 11:30 a.m.
UC Irvine 15, Nevada 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
Nev 000 021 000 – 3 9 1
UCI 210 012 81x – 15 15 1
Marks, McClaren (5), Keplinger (7), Shipley (7) and Escobar; Hooper, Hoover (6), Lines (7), Litchfield (9) and Shaeffer, Sandler (9). W – Hooper, 1-0. L – Marks, 0-1.
2B – Hernandez (UCI), Madigan (UCI), Fox (UCI), Merlino (N). HR – Barnett (N).