College Baseball: 'Eaters thump Dirtbags

IRVINE — The UC Irvine baseball team dug itself out of a hole by peppering singles through them Thursday night.

The Anteaters broke a five-game losing streak, their longest in nine seasons, by spraying 16 hits in a 10-2 Big West Conference victory over visiting Long Beach State in the first of a three-game series that figures to end their season.

More than a handful of those hits found the hole between the shortstop and third baseman as UCI (32-21, 14-11 in conference) erupted for eight hits and seven runs in the first inning to erase a 2-0 deficit.

The lone extra-base hit of the night, a run-producing double by sophomore shortstop Chris Rabago, helped fuel a two-run third for the 'Eaters, who rode the solid pitching of junior Andrew Thurman to retain their chance at finishing in the top three in the Big West.

Thurman, a hard-throwing right-hander expected to go in the first or second round in the upcoming Major League Draft, turned in his third complete game of the season. He allowed seven hits and four runs to improve to 6-4. He struck out 10, matching his career high, and did not walk a batter. He retired the final seven, including a pair of strikeouts to end the ninth.

Thurman, who threw a no-hitter at Long State last season, likely finishes his distinguished career with an 18-10 record and a 3.19 earned-run average in 273 2/3 innings over three seasons.

Thurman allowed singles to the first three hitters Thursday, then retired the next 12 to allow UCI to take command. Thurman had thrown more than 100 pitches through eight innings, but successfully lobbied Coach Mike Gillespie to let him finish it out with 117 pitches.

"If that ends up being my last start here, I'm excited," Thurman said. "I'm thankful for what UCI has done for me and what the coaches have done for me. It was important for me to come out and get a win tonight; not just for me and the team, but for my family and friends who have come out to support me ever since I started here, and even going back to high school."

Gillespie said Thurman's start was, if it turns out that way, a fitting exclamation point to his career.

"He has been real good and we will miss him," Gillespie said. "He's got a chance to have a really very, very good future. There are times when you see a major-league curveball and, at times, a major-league change. I do think he's one of those guys who can be a real good pro starter, because he's a three- and four-pitch-mix guy. And the makeup is good."

Offensively, the hosts shared the heroics, as all nine UCI starters had at least one hit to drop Long Beach to 28-26, 14-11.

Rabago went three for five with two runs batted in and two runs scored, while junior left fielder Jeff Stephens was three for five with one run scored.

Connor Spencer, Taylor Sparks and Ronnie Shaeffer each had two hits and one RBI , while Kris Paulino had one hit and two RBIs.

Dominique Taylor and Jerry McClanahan also drove in runs for the winners, who are one game out of third place, trailing both UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge.

An NCAA at-large berth remains an extreme long shot for the Anteaters.

"We're begging," Gillespie said of his team's chances, which would virtually require UCI to wind up with at least a share of third place.

The two teams resume the series Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Big West Conference

UC Irvine 10, Long Beach State 4


LBSU 200 000 200 – 4 7 0

UCI 702 100 00x –10 16 0

Carle, Sabo (2), Magallon (5), Frye (7) and Miller, Hutting (4); Thurman and Shaeffer. W – Thurman, 6-4. L – Carle, 4-9. 2B – Rabago (UCI).

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