RIVERSIDE — It was fitting, perhaps, that UC Irvine junior ace Matt Summers kept posting zeroes during his complete-game two-hitter in a 12-0 thumping of host UC Riverside that opened a three-game Big West Conference series Friday night.
Some believe Summers, who tied his career high with 10 strikeouts and threw 92 pitches in the Anteaters' first complete game of the season, continued to add to a now-consistent body of work that may help add a zero or two to a professional contract that looms after his selection in the June draft.
"I think he was spectacular," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who has coached a few early-round picks in his 24 seasons as a Division I head coach, the first 20 at USC. "I think he made himself some money again. That's sort of back-to-back-to back [performances] that seem to be adding to his bank account.
This has to be on the short list of the best [pitching performances] we have ever seen."
UCI (36-13, 14-5 in conference), ranked No. 16 in two national polls, pounded 18 hits and did not commit an error. The visitors amassed seven runs on 10 hits in three-plus innings against Highlanders' starter Matt Andriese, who came in with a 2.26 earned-run average.
It was the first time UCR has allowed more than nine runs this season and it was the seventh shutout for UCI this season.
Andriese was no match for Summers, who improved to 9-2 and has now won his last seven decisions. He has won seven of his last eight starts and, shoring up control problems that plagued him earlier, he has walked four in his last 40 innings. He lowered his ERA from 2.10 to 1.90 Friday and, in his last six starts, spanning 47 innings, his ERA is 1.34.
"He's a totally different pitcher now than was at the beginning of the season," Gillespie said. "I really believe it's a quantum leap in pitch ability and it has really happened over the last four to five weeks."
Summers spoke proudly of his continued development, but said a change in his throwing program this week also helped UCI extend its winning streak to six.
"Today, everything came together," said Summers, who retired the first 16 before Bart Steponovich lined a first-pitch single to center field with one out in the sixth inning. "I was extremely comfortable on the mound. We shortened my week up a little bit, because I felt like I have been throwing a lot. I think that was the biggest thing for me. We worked on a lot of flat-ground [throwing], and my arm was feeling great. I think that's just what I needed to rejuvenate myself."
UCR's Tony Nix added a bad-hop single off diving shortstop D.J. Crumlich's glove with one out in the seventh. Both UCR runners failed to advance past first, as Summers faced 29 hitters, two over the minimum.
Crumlich made three sparkling defensive plays for the 'Eaters, and he was among seven Anteaters with multiple hits.
Junior designated hitter Jordan Leyland was two for four with four runs batted in, while senior left fielder Drew Hillman went three for six with three RBIs.
Junior first baseman Jordan Fox was three for four with two RBIs and junior second baseman Tommy Reyes was two for four with two RBIs.
Junior center fielder Christian Ramirez went two for four with one RBI and Crumlich was two for five.
Senior right fielder Sean Madigan was the lone UCI starter without a hit, but he walked and scored in the fourth and has now reached base in 34 consecutive games.
Riverside fell to 26-21, 8-10.
Big West Conference
UC Irvine 12, UC Riverside 0
SCORE BY INNING
UCI 202 401 300 — 12 18 0
UCR 000 000 000 — 0 2 1
Summers and Shaeffer; M. Andriese, Garcia, Mills (6), Duncan (8), Doucette (9) and Steponovich. W – Summers, 9-2. L – M. Andriese, 4-5. 2B – Hernandez (UCI), Reyes (UCI).