Brothers meet on diamond

The atmosphere aligned all weekend for the UC Irvine baseball team, which bashed its way to a season-opening three-game sweep of visiting Nevada, which it outscored a combined 39-8.

The same forces that helped the two teams avoid the rain storms that forced weekend postponements and/or cancellations elsewhere in Southern California, also helped create a dream scenario in the final inning of Game 3 on Sunday at Anteater Ballpark.

UCI senior Brian Hernandez, who was a star at third base in all three games, ventured the roughly 40 feet from the infield dirt to the mound, where he would not only make his debut as the team's closer, but his inaugural stint on the collegiate bump.

The lack of a save situation did not diminish any of the drama, however, because the first hitter Hernandez faced, younger brother Hugo, the Wolf Pack junior first baseman, gave him a flashback to childhood.

"I was kind of excited, especially coming in against my little brother" said Brian Hernandez, the Anteaters' lone returning first-team All-Big West Conference performer. "It was kind of like playing whiffle ball in the back yard."

Hugo, a junior college transfer, swung at the first pitch and fouled out to the catcher. Brian fanned the next hitter for the final out.

UCI's commanding sweep was not the only way in which Brian horded bragging rights against his sibling. Brian went six for 12 in the series and also walked five times. He drove in six runs, lashed three doubles and scored seven times.

Hugo went one for 11 in his first Division I series.

Hugo, however, was the ironic beneficiary of Brian's throwing error on Saturday, the lone miscue of the series for the 'Eaters.

The frequent sight of Brian chatting and smiling with Hugo at first base, and once at third when Hugo paid his older brother a visit, was relished by dozens of Hernandez family members and friends, who filled as many as 30 seats for the three games.

The Hernandez brothers' father, Ramon, mother, Maria and sister Bridgette were among those who wore special souvenir T-shirts created for the first time the two brothers ever competed against one another on the diamond in an organized game. Ramon said even one set of grandparents drove in from Lancaster to attend Saturday's contest.

Still, as of Monday, no word from UC Irvine on the status of sidelined junior women's basketball standout Mikah Maly-Karros.

The Big West Conference scoring leader (19.5 per game), who also leads the Anteaters in rebounding (9.7 per game) and has collected 13 double-doubles in 22 games, has missed three straight games. She was not sitting out due to injury, but the reason she has not played has yet to be disclosed.

Meanwhile, UCI (14-11, 6-7 in conference) is tied for fifth in the Big West with Long Beach State, one game behind the third-place duo of UC Riverside and UC Davis.

UCI plays at Pacific Thursday, at UC Davis Saturday, and finishes up regular-season conference play March 5 at home against UC Riverside.

UCI baseball's prolific offensive display against Nevada was unprecedented to open the season. The team's 39 runs were not only the most in the first three games, but also the most in any four games to start a season in the 33-season history of the program. It took five games to score 40 runs in both the 2010 and 1975 campaigns, the next-most-explosive start.

Despite dominating the Wolf Pack, the Anteaters received a stern talking to during the traditional postgame meeting in shallow left field.

Coach Mike Gillespie said he complimented his team's play, but was disappointed in its dugout demeanor.

"We have this divide," Gillespie said. "There is a real small nucleus of guys who play, older guys. And then you have this younger group. They're not playing and they know they're not and it's hard for those guys. Its always hard for them to kind of fire up a little bit. And I'm not talking about being a cheerleader, so much. I'm talking about when somebody does something well … I mean, we had Hernandez [vs.] Hernandez and we should have been going a little crazy [in the dugout], without somebody having to tell them that."

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