'Eaters change it up

When Mike Gillespie paces to the mound, or strolls across the diamond to discuss a call with an umpire, there is an ever-so-slight limp, the residue of an Achilles injury he said he will just have to endure, due to concerns about someone his age undergoing surgery.

But his age, 72, notwithstanding, the UC Irvine baseball head man is determined to operate daily on his lineup card, in an effort to maximize his team's chances at victory.

There was plenty of tinkering Wednesday and the result was a 3-2 triumph over Cal State Bakersfield in a nonconference game at Anteater Ballpark.

Sophomore Grant Palmer was shifted to the leadoff spot, while junior Justin Castro joined the starters and freshman Andrew Martinez stepped into the designated hitter role for his first action of the season.

Palmer, who hit .220 in 82 at-bats in 2013, had a pair of hits, drove in a run and scored another to help junior starter Evan Manarino cash in a strong six innings for his first collegiate victory. Palmer is now six for 12 this season.

Castro, who was three for six coming in, singled and scored in the second inning and, according to Gillespie, has earned more playing time than expected in center field.

"Palmer [who started in left field], was a going to have to play, because he kind of hit his way into that," Gillespie said. "But Castro [who hit .235 in just 17 at-bats last season] has really taken advantage [of his opportunity after freshman Evan Cassolato opened the season one for seven]. Castro was more of a see-how-it-goes-tonight kind of deal."

Manarino, who struck out nine, allowed six hits and did not walk a batter, saw it go as smoothly as needed against the Roadrunners (3-2). He surrendered only one earned run and stranded runners at third (in the third and sixth innings) and second (in the third and fourth innings). The Saddleback College transfer had six strikeouts through four innings and threw 98 pitches before exiting.

Junior Sam Moore, who worked the final two innings to record the save in Sunday's 1-0 win over Fresno State, took over for Michael Martin with one out in the seventh. He worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings to get his second collegiate save in as many games.

UCI managed just six hits and one earned run off of Bakersfield starter Taylor Aikenhead (six strikeouts and 110 pitches in seven innings) and Sergio Luna. But it was good enough to gain a second straight win and even its record at 2-2.

"It wasn't pretty," said Gillespie, who now has 998 career wins in his 27th season as a Division I head coach. "There are not bad wins. There are some ugly ones, but no bad wins."

Still difficult to look at, however, was the continuation of a season-opening slump for proven boppers Taylor Sparks and Connor Spencer, the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the order who entered their junior seasons with lofty credential and plenty of statistical success.

Sparks, last year's Big West Conference Co-Player of the Year who hit .360 with 10 home runs and 50 runs batted in in 2013, was hitless in four at-bats and has now gone 15 at-bats without a hit this season. Sparks, on this year's Golden Spikes Award watch list, did make two glistening defensive plays. He stole third, then raced home to slide in ahead of a throw to the plate on an infield chopper to score the game-winning run in the third. A national Gold Glove Award winner as a sophomore, he did commit his second error of the season with a wild throw that led to an unearned run in the sixth.

Spencer, the 2013 Big West batting champion who hit .373 with 35 RBIs, was retired three times with a walk. He is now zero for 16 this season.

Junior catcher Jerry McClanahan was one for three and drove in runs with a sacrifice fly and a fielder's choice.

UCI plays host to Wright State on Friday in the first of a three-game weekend Long Beach State tournament.


UC Irvine 3, Cal State Bakersfield 2


CSB 001 001 000 – 2 7 2

UCI 111 000 00x – 3 6 2

Aikenhead, Luna (8) and Hough; Manarino, Martin (7), Moore (7) and McClanahan. W – Manarino, 1-0. L – Aikenhead, 1-1. Sv – Moore (2). 2B – Gwynn (CSB).

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