LOS ANGELES — The novelty of a left-handed second baseman in the UC Irvine lineup was the talk of the Dodger Stadium press box Tuesday afternoon. But, unfortunately for the Anteaters, there was much more familiarity to the offensive struggles that continued in a 3-2 nonconference baseball loss to Pepperdine in the Dodgertown Classic.
The Anteaters (8-7) managed three hits, tying a season-low, and have now scored two or fewer runs six times, all losses, this season.
"We know what we are on offense," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who has fashioned a Hall of Fame career and nearly 950 Division I wins by getting his teams to execute effectively enough to cull victories out of a less-than-bombastic bat rack.
UCI did display some of Gillespie's trademark "skill" game, accepting 10 walks and scoring one run on a squeeze bunt to tie the score, 2-2, in the second inning.
But there was also a dropped fly ball that created an unearned run, another outfield misplay that led to the winning run, and a lack of clutch hitting exemplified by the 'Eaters hitting into four double plays, three of which ended innings.
Gillespie was even less than thrilled with a pitching performance that included five combined scoreless innings by five relievers who followed starter Phil Ferragamo.
"I wasn't particularly pleased with our pitching," Gillespie said. "[The Waves (12-4)] only got three runs, which is not a lot of runs. I liked [Mitch] Merten. I thought he did well."
Merten did not allow a hit in one inning, as did Nick Hoover, while Evan Brock worked a hitless two-thirds of an inning. Pepperdine had only six hits.
But clearly Gillespie, whose team saw its earned-run average decrease from 2.54 to 2.52, has bigger worries than pitching.
In its seven defeats this season, UCI has totaled 11 runs on 36 hits. And in six of those games, it committed two errors. Entering Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. nonconference home game against Washington State, the Anteaters are hitting .245 as a team.
Senior shortstop D.J. Crumlich opened the game with a double into the left-field corner and later scored on an RBI single by freshman left fielder Jeff Stephens.
Three walks and freshman catcher Chris Rabago's successful squeeze bunt allowed UCI to pull even in the second inning, after a two-run first for the Waves.
Freshman designated hitter Connor Spencer fisted a single just over shortstop for the visitors' only other hit. Spencer, who hit into two double plays, including one in the ninth after Scott Gottschling had walked to open the frame, is hitting a team-best .405 in 37 at-bats.
Rabago, who walked three times and had the aforementioned sacrifice on the squeeze play, is hitting .300 in eight games. He started his second game in place of senior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer, who broke the little finger on his right (throwing) hand last week and could be out until May, Gillespie said.
Senior Jordan Fox was hitless in four at-bats to see his average fall to 28 points to .357. But the left-hander, who has played first base the last two seasons, started at second base for the second straight game to allow regular second baseman Tommy Reyes to rest a sore throwing shoulder by playing first base.
A left-handed second baseman beyond Little League bucks baseball convention to the point of being unprecedented. But the only convention Gillespie cares to challenge these days is a depressingly dormant offense.
Pepperdine 3, UC Irvine 2
SCORE BY INNING
UCI 110 000 000 – 2 3 1
Pep 200 010 00x –3 6 1
Ferragamo, Hoover (5), Brock (6), Trentacosta (6), Merten (7), Litchfield (8) and Robago; Mauerer, Alvarez (6), Brown (9), Swanner (9) and Grandpre. W – Maurer, 3-0. L – Ferragamo, 1-1. Sv – Swanner (1). 2B – Crumlich (UCI), Davidson (P).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun