Thurman remains red hot

IRVINE — In a season that may end up less than the norm, a sense of normalcy has surfaced at least to start the last three weekend series for the UC Irvine baseball team.

Sophomore right-hander Andrew Thurman has become nothing less than dominant on the mound to help the Anteaters extend their run of victories in Big West series openers to 28 of their last 29, dating back to 2009.

Visiting UC Riverside was the latest victim, falling, 9-2, in front of 483 at Anteater Ballpark on Friday.

Thurman, who no-hit Long Beach State on April 20, six days after taking a no-hitter to the ninth inning in a win over Cal State Fullerton, worked his second straight complete game to win his third straight start. He allowed five hits and one earned run and has now surrendered just six hits and two earned runs in his last 26 innings.

Thurman struck out five, walked one and threw 70 of his 104 pitches for strikes. He blanked the Highlanders over the final eight innings, during which no runner reached second base.

"He was better with three pitches really tonight," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of Thurman, who improved to 5-2 and helped UCI up its record to 21-17. 6-7 in conference. "I actually thought he pitched more confidently tonight than the [previous two wins]. We threw some behind-in-the-count off-speed pitches and we did not do that last week. I think his presence is better and he's more confident and more aggressive."

In another resumption of normalcy, UCI senior second baseman Tommy Reyes made a triumphant return to the lineup after missing the last four games. He had been spending time with his family, following the death of his older brother in a military helicopter crash.

Reyes, who was three for five in his last game against San Diego State on April 17, went four for four with three runs batted in and two runs scored against the Highlanders (14-21, 4-6).

Reyes singled in a run in the third and the sixth innings and he doubled in another in the eighth. He also stole two bases and his 23 runs batted in this season rank second on the team, behind Jordan Fox's 26.

"It's fun to be back," said Reyes, who missed a three-game set at Long Beach State and Tuesday's game at UCLA. "I missed the guys. It's good to stay busy and I might as well do something I love, which is baseball. And I love being around the guys; there's nothing better."

UCI, which will likely miss the postseason for the first time in seven seasons, scored in five innings to overcome a 2-0 first-inning deficit and snap a three-game losing streak. Senior shortstop D.J. Crumlich was three for four with four runs scored. He also ranged far into foul territory to make a sliding catch of a foul pop near the fence beyond the dugout to produce the hosts' best defensive play.

Freshman third baseman Taylor Sparks was two for three with two runs and junior left fielder Jeff Stephens was two for five with an RBI for the winners.

Freshman Connor Spencer was one for two with two RBIs and Fox had a single and an RBI to contribute to UCI's 13-hit attack.

Thurman has three Friday starts in conference play remaining to try to make a run at Big West Pitcher of the Year laurels. UCI has produced the conference's last four top pitchers.

"It's the chicken and the egg, right?" Gillespie said. "Success and confidence. As [Thurman] has done better, he has gotten more confidence."

Thurman said he hopes that confidence can carry on through the weekend.

"We need all the wins we can get right now," Thurman said. "We need [Saturday] and we need Sunday, as well. But going out and setting the tone on Friday is good."

The two teams play at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


Big West Conference

UC Irvine 9, UC Riverside 2


UCR 200 000 000 — 2 5 3

UCI 104 102 01x — 9 13 1

Stuart, Mills (5), Varela (7), Sprague (8) and Steponovich; Thurman and McClanahan. W – Thurman, 5-2. L – Stuart, 4-5. 2B – Crumlich (UCI), Reyes (UCI).

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