IRVINE — UC Irvine baseball coach Mike Gillespie said doctors are still trying to correctly diagnose what is believed to be a skin ailment sidelining senior center fielder Christian Ramirez.
And, after a frustrating 3-2 nonconference loss to UNLV in the Anteaters' home opener in front of 1,105 at Anteater Ballpark on Monday, Gillespie is hoping that the cure for what was ailing the lower half of his lineup against the Rebels can be easily prescribed.
The Anteaters (3-1), who scored five runs in each of thier three weekend victories at the Urban Invitational in Houston, left eight runners on base against the Rebels (2-2). Six of those stranded were in scoring position and three occurred when the hosts loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh inning and failed to score.
"It's frustrating," Gillespie said after venting some of that frustration verbally with his players in the traditional postgame conference in shallow left field. "I think it was a borderline-poor performance. The way we gave up those runs magnifies it. We have to win, 3-2, not lose, 3-2."
The latter was a reference to UCI's relative lack of power this season. Of the 14 home runs hit during the 'Eaters' 43-18 campaign that ended one pitch from the College World Series in 2011, only two were hit by players on this year's roster.
And with Ramirez not in uniform, the number of trusted veteran hitters was pared to the first four spots in the batting order.
Those four seniors — Tommy Reyes, D.J. Crumlich, Jordan Fox and Ronnie Shaeffer — were a combined seven for 16 with both runs batted in and both runs scored.
The remaining five spots in the order, which included 10 players who had at least one at-bat, went a combined one for 15.
"It really does hurt us," Gillespie said of the absence of Ramirez, who exited after one at-bat in Sunday's game and received treatment at a hospital, before returning with the team flight Sunday night. "It's too bad that it does, but it's the truth. [Sunday] we had Ramirez batting fourth and Fox [both of whom are listed at 5-foot-9] batting third. If Ramirez stands on Fox's shoulders there are like, 6-0 total."
Further complicating Gillespie's offensive planning, Reyes, batting leadoff, led the team with six RBIs on the weekend to capture Big West Conference Player of the Week honors.
Fox, who was three for four to pace UCI's eight-hit attack, doubled in Crumlich, who had walked to open the eighth inning. Fox then scored on an RBI single from Shaeffer, advanced to second on a sacrifice by Paulino and went to third on a groundout. But Shaeffer was left holding the bag when Taylor Sparks, who had three hits in his starting debut Sunday, saw his sinking liner caught by a diving left fielder.
Fox and Shaeffer, who was two for four, had back-to-back singles with two outs in the first, before a groundout ended the inning.
Reyes and Crumlich singled back-to-back with one out in the third, before Fox hit into a double play against UNLV freshman starter Erick Fedde. Fedde, a 26th-round draft pick out of high school who earned the win in his collegiate debut, kept UCI under control until exiting at the end of the sixth.
Paulino walked to open the seventh against reliever Zach Hartman and Spencer followed with a single. Sparks was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Freshmen pinch-hitters Ryan Cooper and Chris Rabago fouled out and tapped into a force at the plate, respectively, before Reyes lined out to left to end the threat.
UNLV posted single runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings to hand UCI senior starter Crosby Slaught the loss, just his fourth in 20 career decisions.
Slaught who gave up two hits and one earned run in 42/3 innings, struck out four and walked four. His first walk, with one out in the third, was to the No. 9 hitter, who scored on a hit-and-run double by Scott Dysinger. Dysinger was the lone Rebel to record two hits.
Slaught walked the No. 8 hitter to open the fifth and he later scored when Fox bobbled a slow two-out grounder behind the bag at first that made the run unearned.
A single, a sacrifice and a single with two outs against reliever Phil Ferragamo put UNLV up, 3-0, in the seventh.
Mitch Merten pitched two hitless innings of relief for UCI, which has not had a pitcher give up more than one earned run in an outing this season.
"The pitching was solid, hard to complain about," Gillespie said.
Mark Shannon blanked UCI on one hit over the final two innings to get the save.
UCI, which won its first 16 home games last season, plays host to Washington in a three-game nonconference series beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m.
UNLV 3, UC Irvine 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
UNLV 001 010 010 – 3 5 1
UCI 000 000 020 – 2 8 2
Fedde, Hartman (7), Shannon (8) and VanMeetran; Slaught, Ferragamo (5), Merten (8) and Shaeffer. W – Fedde, 1-0. L – Slaught, 0-1. Sv – Shannon (1). 2B – Dysinger (UNLV), Fox (UCI).