IRVINE — Listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, both of which may be a stretch, UC Irvine junior center fielder Christian Ramirez has been typecast as a key practitioner of small ball.
And while he played that role well Friday night in the Anteaters' 6-2 Big West Conference series-opening baseball triumph over visiting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, it was Ramirez' three-run triple over the right fielder's head that helped break things open in a four-run seventh inning.
Ramirez, who had two sacrifice bunts to help produce runs in the fourth and sixth innings, also stole home to finalize the seventh-inning rally on a trick play. On the play the runner at first base, Jordan Leyland while leading off, drew a pickoff throw that allowed Ramirez to race home.
The six runs, four of which scored on two-out hits, helped UCI junior Matt Summers outduel junior right-hander Mason Radeke, who came in with a 7-1 record and a 2.19 earned-run average.
Summers, who improved to 7-2, allowed six hits and one earned run in eight innings. He struck out a career-high 10 and, for the third straight start, did not walk a batter. He lowered his ERA to 2.06.
It was the 12th start of the season for Summers and the 11th time he gave up two or fewer earned runs. The most earned runs he allowed were three in an April 1 home victory over Cal State Northridge.
"Our guy was really good," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of Summers. "He was sensational. I'm really proud of him. He has made such strides, it's quantum leaps that he has made and I'm happy for him.
Both teams scored single runs in the fourth inning and UCI took a 2-1 lead on a line drive single by Leyland with one out in the sixth. Drew Hillman and Ronnie Shaeffer also singled in runs with two outs for UCI.
Ramirez was one of eight Anteaters who recorded hits, helping the hosts, ranked No. 17 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Assn., improve to 30-12.
More importantly, UCI moves to 9-4 in the Big West Conference, adding another game of separation ahead of Cal Poly (20-20, 9-7).
Cal State Fullerton (31-13, 12-4) remains in first place.
But there are reasons for concern for the 'Eaters.
Gillespie said junior shortstop D.J. Crumlich, named a finalist Thursday for the Brooks Wallace Award that goes to the best shortstop in the nation, will likely be sidelined indefinitely by a shoulder strain that occurred on an awkward slide in the first inning Friday.
Crumlich, who came in leading UCI in runs with 42, stayed in the game, but appeared to have trouble swinging in his final at-bat.
"The medical term is a sublux and he's hurting," Gillespie said of Crumlich.
"I'm sure he'll be down, probably for the weekend. I just don't want to hear it's a month. It's just sickening, because he is so valuable to us. So that's a big loss and I hate that."
Gillespie also revealed that associate head coach Pat Shine, for whom Gillespie is filling in as third base coach, missed his third straight game due to an illness that has left him hospitalized. Gillespie said the diagnosis is dermatomyositis, a connective-tissue disease that in 90% of cases is manageable by treatment.
"We're all bummed out, because we know Shiner's mentality and that he's just dying to be out here," Summers said. "We're missing him and we can't wait for him to get back and we just want to keep plugging away for him and keep giving our all."
The series continues Saturday at 2 p.m.
Big West Conference
UC Irvine 6, Cal Poly 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
CP 001 000 010 – 2 7 4
UCI 000 101 400 – 6 8 1
Radeke, Reed (7) and Hoo, Stewart (7); Summers, Litchfield (9) and Shaeffer. W – Summers, 7-2. L – Radeke, 6-2. 2B – Gentile (CP) . 3B – Hernandez (UCI), Ramirez
(UCI) . HR – Haniger (CP).