Andrew Morales is referring to his record when he says he starts every game at 0-0. But if one applies the concept of zeros to his earned-run average this season, it may also mean he is merely picking up where he left off.
The UC Irvine senior right-hander threw eight shutout innings to help the host Anteaters earn a 1-0 win over Gonzaga on Saturday in the first of a three-game nonconference series.
Morales (3-0), who struck out a career-high 12, has not allowed an earned run in 30 innings this season. The returning first-team All-Big West Conference performer, who made some preseason All-American teams, loaded the bases in the first inning against the Bulldogs (3-9). But he struck out the next two hitters and cruised until handing the ball to junior Sam Moore, who struck out the side in the ninth to up his NCAA-leading save total to seven.
Morales, who is 34-1 as a collegian, 14-0 as an Anteater after transferring from Rio Hondo Community College, gave up six hits and walked two Saturday. He has now allowed just 19 hits and six walks, while striking out 30 in 2014.
"It's crazy," Moore said of Morales, who did not allow a runner to reach second base after the first inning. "He's amazing. Even when his stuff is not on, he's still getting guys out. It's crazy."
His four-pitch repertoire was working well Saturday said Morales, who noted he had to adjust to a tight strike zone early.
"That first inning was huge," Morales said. "I stayed with it and continued to throw quality pitches and we got out of it. It doesn't look that pretty, but we got the job done."
The job became a little easier when freshman center fielder Evan Cassolato tripled inside first base to open the UCI fourth inning. After Jerry McClanahan struck out looking, junior left fielder Ryan Cooper lifted a sacrifice fly to center to allow Cassolato to score easily.
Cassolato and junior third baseman Taylor Sparks were both two for four to lead the Anteaters' six hit attack. Sparks, the Co-Big West Conference Player of the Year and an All-American in 2013 who opened the season 0 for 16, is 15 for 34 in his last nine games (.441).
It was the eighth straight win for UCI (10-3), which lowered its staff earned-run average to 1.45 this season. Morales' career ERA in 125 1/3 innings is 1.44.
"Morales was really good again," Gillespie said. "He gets out of trouble in the first and [the rest] is kind of what we've seen from him. I hate to think we'll get jaded by [Morales' success], but this is pretty much what he is. When he is good, the stuff is good and he has this X factor because there is a special competitiveness about him. There are some guys who are better competitors than others and he is one of them."
UCI played errorless defense for the fourth straight game.
The two teams continue the series Sunday at 1 p.m., with the finale scheduled Monday at 6:30 p.m.
UC Irvine 1, Gonzaga 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
Gonz 000 000 000 – 0 6 0
UCI 000 100 00x – 1 6 0
Jones, Brija (8) and Harris; Morales, Moore (9) and McClanahan. W – Morales, 3-0. L – Jones, 1-2. Sv – Moore (7). 3B – Cassolato (UCI).