IRVINE — What turned out to be instant gratification in terms of the victory in the baseball season opener, was the product of delayed offensive execution by host UC Irvine on Friday night.
The Anteaters, ranked No. 30 by Collegiate Baseball, scored all of their runs with two outs to claim a 6-4 nonconference win over Baylor, ranked No. 23 by USA Today/ESPN.
The Anteaters, coming off a 31-25 campaign in which they failed to make the postseason for the first time in seven seasons, strung together four two-out singles in a five-run third that erased a 1-0 deficit.
Baylor, the defending Big 12 Conference regular-season champion which went 49-17 in 2012 and reached a super regional, also relied on two-out hits to produce all of its runs. Included in the visitors' output was a three-run homer in the seventh by leadoff man Nathan Orf that cut into a 6-1 deficit.
Three UCI relievers, including senior closer Race Parmenter who worked the ninth to record the save, finished off the win for junior starter Andrew Thurman. Thurman allowed five hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Senior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer and sophomore first baseman Connor Spencer each went three for four for the Anteaters, as each drove in a run with a single in the third.
Senior second baseman Jeff Stephens, whose RBI single in the sixth capped the scoring for the hosts, had two of UCI's 11 hits.
"I think there was a lot to like," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of his program's seventh straight season-opening triumph, its eighth in the last nine season debuts. "That's a good win against a good team. Thurman was good. He scuffled in terms of some command and he dodged some bullets and pitched out of trouble."
Junior center fielder Dominique Taylor, a community college transfer and the lone newcomer in the starting lineup for UCI, got the big third inning rolling with a two-run single up the middle.
In addition to the offense and pitching, the UCI defense, which Gillespie said has caused some major preseason concern, failed to make an error.
Sophomore Chris Rabago, making his debut at shortstop after playing primarily catcher last season, made two quality plays and Shaeffer threw out the only runner trying to steal a base in the fifth.
Spencer had the lone extra-base hit for UCI, which benefited from four walks and two hit batters.
Conversely, UCI pitchers combined to walk just one and hit one batter.
UCI had a would-be insurance run thrown out at the plate in the eighth, but Parmenter, as well as freshman left-hander Eliot Surrey, who worked 1 1/3 hitless innings to set up the returning closer who had eight saves in 2012, made the lead stand up.
Baylor sophomore Ryan Smith, making his first collegiate start, sailed through the first two innings and struck out the leadoff batter in the third. But after hitting Rabago, he walked Scott Gottschling. After Stephens lined out to right field, Kris Paulino walked to load the bases and the middle of the UCI order delivered.
Following Taylor's two-run single, Spencer, Taylor Sparks and Shaeffer singled home runs.
Shaeffer, who redshirted last season after breaking a finger in the 11th game, now has five career hits and four RBIs in season openers.
The two teams continue the series Saturday at 1 p.m.
UC Irvine 6, Baylor 4
Score by Innings
Baylor 100 000 300 – 4 9 0
UCI 005 001 00x – 6 11 0
Smith, Michalec (3), Ashby (6), Davis (7) and Goodwin, Landes (7); Thurman, Morales (6), Surrey (7). Parmenter (9) and Shaeffer.
W – Thurman, 1-0. L – Smith, 0-1. Sv – Parmenter (1).
2B – Towey (BU), Spencer (UCI), Brown (BU), Price (BU). HR – Orf (BU).
Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun