College Baseball: 'Eaters handle ASU

UC Irvine senior pitcher Andrew Morales calls it players' amnesia. But while a short memory can serve a baseball team well, it might be advisable for Morales and the rest of the Anteaters to keep the memory of Saturday's 5-2 win over visiting Arizona State somewhere fresh in their collective memory all season long.

"You really shouldn't give up on a season after five games, but we really did need something like this," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, whose squad had opened 2-3 and struggled mightily on offense before Saturday's second game of the three-game Long Beach State Tournament at Anteater Ballpark.

But the offense kicked in from the outset, producing five hits and three runs in the first inning. Included in the outburst were back-to-back singles by junior boppers Taylor Sparks and Connor Spencer, who each had their first hits of the season Friday, but came in to the clash with the Sun Devils a combined two for 38.

Sparks, the Big West Conference Co-Player of the Year in 2013 who opened 2014 on the Golden Spikes Award watch list, went two for four and scored a run.

Spencer, the Big West batting champion last season when he hit .373, was one for three with a run batted in and a run scored.

Sophomore left fielder Grant Palmer went three for four (he is nine for 20 this season) and scored twice, while freshman right fielder Adam Alcantara was two for three with an RBI in his first start to aid the hosts' 11-hit attack.

Morales, who allowed four hits and struck out five in seven innings, during which Arizona State's two runs were unearned, has now thrown 14 innings this season without allowing an earned run.

Morales, who was 10-0 with a 1.89 earned-run average as a junior after compiling a 21-1 record in two seasons at Rio Hondo Community College, earned his first win of the season.

Junior center fielder Justin Castro, junior shortstop Chris Rabago, junior catcher Jerry McClanahan, Sparks and Spencer were among those who made sparkling defensive plays to round out what was the most complete game of the season for UCI (3-3).

Arizona State, a traditionally strong program that UCI split two games with in the 2007 College World Series, fell to 2-4.

"It was a big win for all of us, coming in beating a good Pac-12 school," said Morales, who earned some All-American recognition last season. "It was a full team win today. We had everything going."

Gillespie said it was the kind of win that could turn the negative tide that might have accompanied the program's worst start since 2002.

"I hope [the players] felt good about it," said Gillespie, who earned career victory No. 999 in his 27th season as a Division I head coach. "They need something to feel good about. I think they do and they should."

Morales said the big win would likely not change the players' approach.

"We try not to think about it," Morales said of the context of each game. "I think we are pretty good at players' amnesia. Win, lose or draw, we come out with same mentality to put our best out and leave it on the field."

Long Beach State tournament

UC Irvine 5, Arizona State 2,


ASU 000 002 000 – 2 5 1

UCI 300 001 10x – 5 11 1

Kellogg, Melbostad (7) and Ybarra; Morales, Moore and McClanahan. W – Morales, 1-0. L – Kellogg, 0-1. Sv – Moore (3). 2B – Ybarra (ASU), Sewald (ASU), Causey (ASU).

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