IRVINE — In his fourth season with the UC Irvine baseball team, fifth-year senior Nick Hoover has been, reminiscent of the vacuum product that made his name famous, kept in the baseball equivalent to the closet, relegated almost exclusively to clean-up duty.
But the right-handed pitcher may have changed all that with his second start in 47 career mound appearances for the Anteaters in a 6-0 nonconference victory over Washington State at Anteater Ballpark on Wednesday.
Hoover, whose previous start lasted 3 2/3 innings at USC on May 25, 2010, allowed one hit in 7 2/3 innings against the Cougars. He registered 13 of his 23 outs on balls hit in the air and another five on strikeouts to fashion what he said was the best start of a college career that included the 2008 season at Riverside City College, when he made 15 starts.
He took a medical redshirt in 2009 at UCI due to shin splints, and had never approached anything near the 102 pitches he threw Wednesday in his previous outings for the 'Eaters (9-7).
But his number came up on the second of five games in five days, and he gave the bullpen some significant rest.
"He owned his stuff," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of Hoover, who left the game with a 4-0 lead as UCI produced 15 hits against five pitchers. "He had real good command of three pitches. He pitched in and he pitched away, he got the [slider] and the change over and he didn't give in. He did all the things you always wish they all would do."
Hoover walked two (one intentionally), while stranding three runners in the first inning and left two more in the third, when he issued a walk and hit a batter. The only hit against him was an infield single over the bag at second with one out in the fourth. But that runner was thrown out trying to steal, allowing him to record 16 outs on the final 16 hitters he faced.
"After that first inning, I was Just trying to get more aggressive with everything," said Hoover, who has allowed just two hits and no runs in 12 2/3 innings this season, including one perfect relief inning Tuesday. "I was trying to throw as hard as I can and it ended up I was able to throw my sliders and changeups better for strikes. I was hitting my spots."
Meanwhile, UCI, which came in batting .245 as a team, was flat hitting, upping its team average to .260.
Senior first baseman Jordan Fox went four for 5 to up his team-leading average to .424. Freshman left fielder Jeff Stephens was three for five with an RBI and he is eight for 15 in his last four games.
Freshman catcher Chris Rabago was three for four and senior second baseman Tommy Reyes was two for three. Reyes also walked twice and scored twice.
UCI, which left 10 runners on base, scored single runs in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings. Four of its runs came home via the sacrifice, including a squeeze bunt by Taylor Sparks, and another scored on a double play.
It wasn't until Stephens smacked an infield single off the pitcher's glove in the eighth that the hosts (9-7) drove home a run on a base hit.
Freshman Connor Spencer and senior Christian Ramirez had one hit and one RBI apiece for the winners, who received 1 1/3 innings of one-hit relief from junior Mark Trentacosta.
Washington State fell to 9-6.
UCI visits Nevada for a three-game nonconference series beginning Thursday.
UC Irvine 6, Washington State 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
WSU 000 000 000 – 0 2 0
UCI 010 110 12x –6 15 1
Pistorese, Simon (4), Hartnett (7), McQueen (8), LeRoy (8) and Jones; Hoover, Trantacosta (8) and Rabago. W – Hoover, 2-0. L – Pistorese, 1-1. 2B – Rabago (UCI).