IRVINE — Lined up alongside his teammates, Christian Ramirez stands out during the national anthem. Or perhaps more correctly, he stands down.
Certainly one of the runts of the UC Irvine baseball litter, he appears at least a phonebook shy of the 5-foot-9 stature the roster affords him.
But when the game begins, the speedy 165-pound junior center fielder known for his sunny disposition is not averse to launching the occasional moon shot from his left-handed batting stance.
Ramirez, whose diminutive stature usually prompts outfielders to creep toward the infield, tripled over a drawn-in right fielder's head to drive in two runs and cap a three-run third inning that put the Anteaters ahead for good in a 9-2 nonconference home win over USC.
It was the 12th extra-base hit of the season for Ramirez, which is tied for fourth on the team. His five triples are tops on the roster and continually serve to amuse Anteaters Coach Mike Gillespie.
"I'm sure that stunned them," Gillespie said of Ramirez's triple, one of four UCI extra-base hits, three of which plated a total of five runs. "It's pretty interesting, because it's not like he has got this huge swing. It's kind of a rhythm swing that he gets the head out and there's some strength there."
Ramirez greets any talk of his strength with his trademark laughter. But he is not too modest to recognize he has what the boppers like to call pop.
"It feels good when they're playing me in a little bit, because if they throw me something in that I can handle, I have enough power to at least get it over their heads."
Ramirez also drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the fifth on his way to going two for four. He was one of seven Anteaters with two hits.
Junior designated hitter Jordan Leyland drove in two with a double in the fifth and senior right fielder Sean Madigan doubled in a run in the first for UCI (35-13), ranked No. 16 in two national polls.
Senior left fielder Drew Hillman was two for three with two RBIs, both on sacrifice flies, as the hosts lashed 14 hits to drop USC to 20-28.
The UCI offense backed five pitchers, four of whom did not allow a run.
Sophomore Andy Lines earned the win to improve to 4-2, blanking the Trojans on two hits over 2 2/3 innings.
But Gillespie was most impressed with freshman Phil Ferragamo, who allowed one hit in three innings. Ferragamo, who at 6-8 towers over Ramirez, struck out two and did not walk a batter.
"I think tonight we had a lot of guys come up big," Gillespie said. "I'm particularly pleased with what Ferragamo did. But we played good defense again and we came up with big hits."
Pat Shine, UCI's associate head coach who had missed the previous eight games due to illness, returned to the UCI dugout Tuesday.
"That was awesome, just to have him here," Ramirez said of Shine. "The fire that he brings to the team is unbelievable and it definitely gets us going. Just to see him out here pumps us all up."
UC Irvine 9, USC 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
USC 020 000 000 – 2 7 0
UCI 203 040 000 – 9 14 0
Garcia, Mount (3), Munson (5), Richter (6), Hershiser (6), Wheatley (8), Mezger
(9) and Roundtree, Hernandez (7); Whitehouse, Thurman (2), Lines (3), Ferragamo (6), Hooper (9) and Shaeffer. W – Lines, 4-2. L – Garcia, 2-5. 2B – Madigan (UCI), Swick (USC), Crumlich (UCI), Leyland (UCI) . 3B – Ramirez (UCI).