College Baseball: Defense tops UCI victory

LOS ANGELES — You know it's a good day when the only struggle was determining just how many defensive plays earned web-gem distinction.

That was the case Tuesday for the UC Irvine baseball team, which produced positives with offense, defense and pitching to fuel a well-rounded discussion on the bus ride home from a 10-3 nonconference triumph at Loyola Marymount.

The No. 21-ranked Anteaters (7-1) lashed 14 hits and scored in six innings to pull away from the Lions (3-5), who had as little luck battling the visitors' gloves as the UCI bats and/or arms.

UCI Coach Mike Gillespie identified five outstanding catches in what he termed a pretty spectacular defensive performance.

Two were made in center field by junior Dominique Taylor, who ranged in to make a lunging catch of a sinking liner that was magnified when he hurried to his feet and doubled off a runner at second base in the second inning.

In the seventh, Taylor retreated to make an over-the-shoulder grab for the first out of an inning that ended with freshman second baseman Grant Palmer angling into foul territory and sliding to catch a popup just in front of the fence near the LMU bullpen .

Sophomore Kris Paulino and senior Scott Gottschling both inspired oohs and ahs from spectators for their catches in right field. Paulino dived to haul in a looper just outside the foul line, about 100 feet behind first base. And Gottschling turned his back on the plate and ranged toward the warning track before smoothly collecting a fly ball over his shoulder.

"Those were five extraordinary catches," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who in the preseason had red-flagged defense as a potential weakness.

It was Taylor who suggested a sixth play merited highlight consideration, pointing out that sophomore catcher Jerry McClanahan fell backward toward the batter's box to snag a foul pop spinning behind him as he looked into the stands to track its flight.

It was the fourth errorless game this season for UCI, which has committed no more than one error in any contest and has yet to allow an unearned run.

Offensively, eight different players contributed hits, including senior first baseman Ronnie Shaeffer, the reigning Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week who was three for five with a home run and three runs batted in to lift his average to .486.

Taylor was two for five with three RBIs, while sophomore designated hitter Connor Spencer and McClanahan both went two for four with one RBI. McClanahan has at least one hit in all eight games this season.

Sophomore shortstop Chris Rabago was two for four and scored three times to help take pressure off five UCI pitchers.

Junior Phil Ferragamo worked 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win, while junior Jimmy Litchfield, junior Kyle Hooper and senior Race Parmenter each threw an inning of hitless, scoreless relief.

After single runs for UCI in the second and third innings, LMU used half of its six hits to post three runs and take a 3-2 lead in the third.

But UCI, which has outscored opponents, 60-25, this season and is hitting .354 as a team, scored three in the fifth, then continued to tack on.

"Their starter [Patrick McGrath, who pitched six shutout innings in his first start] was good, so I liked our at-bats against him," Gillespie said.

UCI returns home to open a four-game nonconference series against Portland on Friday at 6:30 p.m.



UC Irvine 10, Loyola Marymount 3


UCI 011 030 311 – 10 14 0

LMU 003 000 000 – 3 6 4

Surrey, Ferragamo (3), Litchfield (7), Hooper (8) and McClanahan; McGrath, Horth (6), Silva (7), McIntyre (8) and Plaia. W – Ferragamo, 1-0. L – McGrath, 0-1. 2B – Spencer (UCI), Rabago (UCI), Cheek (LMU), Donnells (LMU), McClanahan (UCI). 3B – . HR – Shaeffer (UCI) .

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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