Colleges: Hair-raising week for UCI athletes

The week that began with Mustache Monday at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center, went on to feature a pair of extremely close shaves.

The Anteaters' men's volleyball team took care of visiting Hawaii in four games, the first of back-to-back Mountain Pacific Sports Federation wins over the Warriors, to start the prosperous week at the Bren.

Several UCI players sported real and artificial mustaches and hundreds of fans donned imitation black, blond or gray lip accessories passed out as part of a promotion that played off the Island connection of television's Magnum P.I.

Even game officials caught the spirit of the brainchild of UCI assistant coach David Kniffin, who added Magnum's trademark Detroit Tigers cap to complete the effect.

The close shaves in question were a pair of double-overtime wins by the men's basketball team, Thursday against UC Davis and Saturday against Pacific.

The two victories, which included 193 points scored by the Anteaters, the highest-scoring team in the Big West Conference, also allowed Coach Russell Turner's squad to clinch a berth in the eight-team conference tournament, March 10-12, at Honda Center.

UCI, which closes out its regular season Saturday at UC Riverside, could still get a No. 5 seed in the tournament, should it win and UC Santa Barbara lost at home to second-place Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday.

A UCI loss Saturday, combined with two wins this week by UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton, would make the 'Eaters a No. 8 seed, meaning a first-round matchup against regular-season champion Long Beach State.

UCI has wins over four of the top five teams in the conference standings, including Long Beach State.

Meanwhile, the 7-0 start for the UCI baseball team has featured only one closely contested game.

Coach Mike Gillespie's unit has outscored opponents, 85-15 this season. UCI, which leads Big West Conference teams in just about every hitting category, also tops the conference in most pitching categories, as well as defense.

Junior Jordan Fox leads all Big West hitters in hits (17) and runs batted in (14). The 5-foot-8 first baseman, who bats second in the order, is second in the conference in average (.531), slugging (.688) and on-base percentage (.579).

Junior shortstop and leadoff man D.J. Crumlich (batting .407) leads the Big West in runs scored (16), while seniors Drew Hillman (.400 with 13 RBIs), Brian Hernandez (.414 with 12 RBIs) and Sean Madigan (.364), as well as junior Tommy Reyes (.368) rank in the top five in other categories.

Fox, Hernandez and Hillman have a hit in every game this season.

UCI, which has more runs in the first inning (18) than opponents have scored all season, is hitting .371 as a team heading into the three-game nonconference series at Saint Mary's scheduled to begin Friday.

On the bump, UCI pitchers have a combined 1.99 earned-run average and are limiting foes to a .173 batting average.

Friday starter Matt Summers has 12 strikeouts in 101/3 innings and has allowed just two hits (a softball-like .063 batting average against).

Matt Whitehouse (five innings) and Andy Lines (four) lead a stable of five relievers who have not allowed an earned run in 142/3 innings thus far.

Saturday starter Kyle Hooper and Sunday starter Crosby Slaught are both 2-0, while freshman Andrew Thurman (a staff-worst 5.00 ERA) won his only start.

UCI has just three errors, two fewer than any conference rival, and the team's 14 stolen bases equal the combined total of the conferences next-two-closest theft producers.

UCI, which began the season out of any top-25 poll, is now ranked No. 25 by Baseball America, No. 19 by USA TODAY/ESPN, No. 21 by the baseball writers' assn. and No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball.

Orange Coast College opens Orange Empire Conference baseball play Thursday at Fullerton with a pristine 14-0 record, keyed by extreme offensive balance and strong pitching.

Coach John Altobelli's Pirates have a staff ERA of 2.16, led by reliever Jed Vandernaald, who has not allowed an earned run in 12 innings.

Starting pitcher Ryan Doran is 3-0, as is reliever Garrett Hartwell, while Ryan Bosello, a freshman out of Estancia High, is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in nine innings.

Josh Evans has four saves.

At the plate, Brian Garza (.417) and Zach Chavez (.364) lead the team with 12 RBIs apiece, though Garza, a freshman first baseman who had 10 doubles and the team's lone home run, broke his wrist last week and is out for the season.

Matt Moynihan (.410), Chris Carlson (.333) and Jordan Beck all have 11 RBIs.

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