There is, in UC Irvine baseball coach Mike Gillespie's esteemed opinion, no room for error with the Anteaters this season, let alone two.
Two UCI errors contributed to three unearned runs in the sixth inning, though there were other concerns as well in a 6-0 nonconference setback to visiting Pepperdine on Tuesday.
The Anteaters (13-7) matched the Waves (14-6) with nine hits, but stranded 13 runners to Pepperdine's three. The result was the 'Eaters third blanking of the season, their third straight defeat, and four losses in the last five games, coming off what had been a school-record 10-game winning streak.
"There is no margin for error," said Gillespie, who has seen his team make five in the last three games, after having made only one in the previous eight contests. "We have to have our A-plus game every time. We are not physical enough to not play really well and overcome."
UCI could not overcome some additional timely hitting by the Waves, nor could the hosts come through to cash in several scoring opportunities.
Sophomore designated hitter Grant Palmer, who was three for five for UCI, led off the first inning with a double into the left-field corner, but was left holding the bag without advancing. UCI had baserunners in eight innings, including loading the bases with one out in the seventh and the eighth innings.
Two hit batters and a Palmer single packed the sacks in the seventh, but junior shortstop Chris Rabago grounded into a 5-3 double play to end the threat.
A hit batter and singles by junior catcher Jerry McClanahan (two for three) and junior center fielder Justin Castro loaded the bases in the eighth, but junior right fielder Kris Paulino struck out and freshman second baseman John Brontsema flied out to center to add to the frustration.
"I'm more concerned about the offense than I am anything else," said Gillespie, whose team has been outscored, 37-15, the last five games.
UCI junior starting pitcher Evan Manarino surrendered nine hits and six runs, though only three were earned, in five innings. He struck out four and did not issue a walk while absorbing his second loss in three decisions. Manarino has now been victimized by 10 of UCI's 16 unearned runs allowed this season, though he has given up 42 hits in 25 innings.
Gillespie said he may seek an alternative mid-week starter, but is underwhelmed by potential candidates.
Sophomore Kyle Davis continued to improve his candidacy, working two perfect innings to give him 14 2/3 this season without allowing an earned run.
" It wasn't long ago that I was thinking how to have a conversation with [Davis] to suggest he consider a career in financial planning," Gillespie said. "But he gets into a game and does well, then does it again and he keeps getting guys out. It's 85 mph, but everything has a cut action to it that makes it just hard enough to get a bead on him that he gets outs."
Junior Matt Fielding added a perfect relief inning to lower his earned-run average to 1.23 in 7 1/3 this season.
And freshman Matt Weinstein, converted to a side-arm delivery not long before the season began, maintained the bullpen's scoreless performance by making his collegiate debut in the ninth.
Rabago, who came into the game with four errors, made both miscues, both errant throws.
The Anteaters try to rebound on Friday, when they open their final three-game nonconference series at home against Grand Canyon at 6:30 p.m.
The Big West Conference season is set to begin March 28 at home against UC Riverside.
Pepperdine 6, UC Irvine 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
Pep 010 032 000 – 6 9 0
UCI 000 000 000 – 0 9 2
Maurer, Puckett (7), Dilda (8), Blanchard (8) and Yamaguchi; Manarino, Davis (6), Fielding (8), Weinstein (9) and McClanahan. W – Mauer, 2-1. L – Manarino, 1-2. 2B – Moyer (P), Palmer (UCI). 3B – Brown (P).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun