IRVINE — In order to get a White House visit, most college teams have to win the national championship. But whenever the UC Irvine baseball team wants to create a Whitehouse opportunity, it merely puts in a call to its bullpen.
The seventh-inning appearance of sophomore reliever Matt Whitehouse proved vital to the Anteaters' 5-2 nonconference win over visiting Loyola Marymount on Friday night, in front of an energetic crowd of 645 at Anteater Ballpark.
Whitehouse, a left-hander summoned in relief of starter Matt Summers with the bases loaded, one out and one run in, struck out both Lions he faced to preserve the lead. It also helped secure Summers' second win in three decisions this season and helped set up Brian Hernandez's fourth save in the last five games.
UCI (13-1), ranked No. 14 in the USA Today/ESPN poll, has now won six straight, all by four or fewer runs.
Summers allowed four hits and one earned run in 6 1/3 innings, while Nick Hoover added a perfect relief inning to a bullpen that has been consistently impressive in 2011.
"The bullpen has really been the best part of our pitching," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who praised Summers and Whitehouse foremost among Friday's mound quartet.
"We had to have Summers settle down and he did, and he started throwing his changeup for a strike and it made a difference," Gillespie said. "And that was good stuff from Whitehouse. It was really important to him. His life last year was not fun all the time, so this was a good deal for him."
Whitehouse worked only six innings as a freshman, allowing eight hits and three earned runs. He walked seven and struck out 10. This season, he has thrown 7 1/3 innings, surrendering four hits and two earned runs. He has nine strikeouts and only one walk.
"He has got a little cockiness this year and I like it," Summers said of Whitehouse. "He's definitely just getting after guys and he just doesn't care. He's not scared and I know he's going to throw his cutter and he knows the guys aren't going to hit him.
"He picked me up huge. He has been a guy for us [this season] and he's going to continue to be a guy for us."
Whitehouse said the most clutch performance of his career was also meaningful because Ted Silva, the UCI pitching coach the previous two seasons, was in the opposing dugout with the same job at LMU (12-7).
"It was a big thing for me," Whitehouse said. "Doing this tonight was really important to me, just to show Silva what I had. I competed and it worked out."
With the two strikeouts against Whitehouse, LMU is now one for 14 this season with the bases loaded (an .071 batting average).
UCI produced three of its runs on triples. Senior Drew Hillman plated two in the first inning with a triple into the right-field corner, then scored when junior Jordan Leyland singled.
Leyland boomed a triple off the fence in center to drive in Hillman in the sixth. Leyland then scored on a sacrifice fly by Sean Madigan.
Leyland, two for four, was the only one of the six Anteaters who had hits to produce more than one.
UCI and LMU complete their three-game series today and Sunday at LMU.
Freshman Andrew Thurman makes his first weekend start today, while Gillespie said he was unsure who would start Sunday in place of junior Crosby Slaught, who has shoulder soreness.
UC Irvine 5, Loyola Marymount 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
LMU 010 000 100 – 2 4 0
UCI 300 002 00x – 5 7 1
Wheeler, Eusibio (7) and Koch; Summers, Whitehouse (7), Hoover (8), Hernandez
(9) and Shaeffer. W – Summers, 2-1. L – Wheeler, 2-1. Sv – Hernandez (4). 2B – Hernandez (UCI), Reyes (UCI) . 3B – Hillman (UCI), Leyland (UCI).