IRVINE — Among the myriad fundamentals in which the UC Irvine baseball players are well-versed, home-run trot is not one. Senior second baseman Tommy Reyes, then, could surely be forgiven for pleading ignorance on the finer points of the four-base circuit required to complete a fence-clearing blast.
Reyes had, in fact, compiled 431 collegiate at-bats without a dinger, before jettisoning a pitch over the left-field barrier at Nevada on Saturday. Only nine at-bats later, he produced his second career big fly by launching a 1-2 pitch over the fence in left field for a two-run shot that wound up being the difference in the Anteaters' 5-4 nonconference win over visiting Dartmouth on Friday.
"I'm kind of new at it," said Reyes, who doesn't exactly have anyone to confer with regarding post-homer behavior, since Friday's clout was only the third hit this season by an Anteater in 655 at-bats. "I'm just trying to touch all the bases."
Reyes' bomb, which like any homer hit in a night game at Anteater Ballpark was no fluke, capped a three-run fifth that put the hosts up, 5-0.
"A couple guys were making fun of me last time [after homering at Nevada], saying the wind helped," said Reyes, who was two for three Friday to lead UCI's seven-hit attack. "This time, I kind of threw it in [his teammates'] face. And [the home run] ended up helping us out, which was nice."
UCI (13-8), in fact, needed every run to hold off the Big Green (2-9), who scored three in the sixth and one in the ninth.
But UCI junior Race Parmenter got the final four outs to preserve the win for sophomore starter Andrew Thurman (now 2-1) and record his team-leading second save.
Sophomore Mitch Merten and junior Mark Trentacosta allowed just one hit and no runs in 1 2/3 combined innings to act as a bridge between Thurman (five hits and three runs in six innings) and Parmenter.
"We pitched, for the most part, real well," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said. "[The visitors] had the one good inning, but Thurman was good for a long time and all three of those other guys did well."
For the first time in seven games, UCI played errorless defense. And, with only four runners left on base, it was fairly efficient in maximizing its scoring opportunities.
A double by D.J. Crumlich and a throwing error on a bunt single by Reyes opened the scoring in the fourth, when Jeff Stephens later plated Reyes on a squeeze play to double the lead.
A sacrifice fly by Crumlich scored UCI's first run of the fifth, before Reyes tacked on two more with his wallop.
It was the fourth straight win for UCI, the third consecutive one-run triumph. The Anteaters' margin for error may be dwindling with news that junior ace Kyle Hooper, who left the game with elbow soreness Thursday at Nevada, will have an MRI on Monday to help determine a diagnosis. Hooper is 3-1 with a 1.30 earned-run average and has struck out 28 in 27 2/3 innings.
Junior starting pitcher Matt Whitehouse, the top returning hurler from 2011, continues to be sidelined by a sore rotator cuff, though Gillespie said he is on a throwing program and may return as soon as the Cal State Fullerton series (April 13-15).
Gillespie said senior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer, who broke the little finger on his right throwing hand after playing 11 games, could possibly miss the season if it made more sense to take a medical redshirt year and try to play again in 2013.
The two teams conclude the series Saturday at 1 p.m.
UC Irvine 5, Dartmouth 4
SCORE BY INNING
Dart 000 003 001 – 4 8 1
UCI 000 230 00x – 5 7 0
Johnson, Mariscal (8), Langford (8) and O'Dowd; Thurman, Merten (7), Trentacosta (8), Parmenter (8) and Rabago. W – Thurman, 2-1. L – Johnson, 1-1. Sv – Parmenter (2). 2B – Sciafani (D), 2, Selzer (D), Crumlich (UCI), Ramirez (UCI), Spencer (UCI). 3B – Coble (D). HR – Reyes (UCI).