MALIBU — Compensation for college athletes is a hot topic lately, but most agree nothing should be accepted without being earned.
Two errant pickoff throws, one to first base by starting pitcher Evan Marino, and another to third from catcher Jerry McClanahan, led to a pair of "freebies" to help the Waves (21-7) prevail on a day when they produced half as many hits as the Anteaters.
UCI rapped out 10 hits by eight different players and had baserunners in all but two innings, while four Anteaters pitchers allowed just five combined hits, faced the minimum in four innings, and did not allow any two-out hits.
But UCI (18-10) reached the halfway point in its regular season with one of its most upsetting losses firmly stuck in its collective craw.
"The expression is: Make them earn what they get, and [the Waves] didn't," said Gillespie, whose team has now committed 31 errors this season and allowed 25 unearned runs.
By contrast, UCI has scored 13 unearned runs with the help of 26 errors by its opponents.
The costly defensive lapses, in conjunction with two Pepperdine runs by runners who either walked or were hit by a pitch, likely made for a dour bus ride home through rush-hour traffic.
But Gillespie was also pleased by his offense's attack against a Pepperdine pitching staff that came in with a 2.28 earned-run average, 11th in the country, and allowed just one earned run in 27 innings of a West Coast Conference weekend sweep of Portland. Waves pitchers had allowed just seven runs in the previous eight games, including five shutouts.
"I liked what we did [offensively]," Gillespie said. "Three runs doesn't sound like something you'd be bragging about, but I thought we had good at-bats. We had maybe five or six hard-hit outs.
"[The Waves] got five hits, so how poorly did we pitch?" Gillespie said. "But throw [an attempted pickoff] away and there's a couple of walks and, you know, here we are with a 4-3 loss. It's one of those days."
Adding to the consternation, UCI's Kris Paulino was picked off second base to douse a first-and-second-with-two-outs rally in the fourth inning and Paulino also hit into an inning-ending double play in the second.
UCI junior shortstop Taylor Sparks smacked his team-leading fourth home run of the season to lead off the fourth inning and cut the Pepperdine lead in half. But that marked the only time in the game when the Anteaters' first hitter in an inning reached base.
Four of the 'Eaters' hits came with two outs, including a single by sophomore left fielder Grant Palmer that drove in John Bronsema in the seventh to pull the visitors within 3-2.
Pepperdine's Hutton Moyer walked with one out in the eighth inning, stole second and went to third on a groundout to first for the second out. He then scored on McClanahan's ill-fated pickoff throw down the left-field line for what proved to be the difference in the game.
Brontsema, who along with Palmer had two hits, doubled with one out in the ninth, went to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch against Pepperdine closer Eric Karch, who posted his ninth save.
UCI starter Evan Manarino, who took the loss and is now 1-3, allowed two runs, one earned, in three innings. Kyle Davis allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings, while Matt Fielding and Jimmy Litchfield worked the final 2 2/3 innings without surrendering an earned run.
Chris Rabago, Connor Spencer, Jonathan Munoz, Paulino and Evan Cassolato also had hits for the 'Eaters.
Pepperdine 4, UC Irvine 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
UCI 000 100 101 – 3 10 2
Pepp 101 100 01x – 4 5 0
Manarino, Davis (4), Fielding (6), Litchfield (8) and McClanahan; Mauer, Puckett (6), Blanchard (8), Karch (9) and Yamaguchi. W – Mauer, 3-1. L – Manarino, 1-3. Sv – Karch (9). 2B – Brown (P), Bronsema (UCI). HR – Sparks (UCI).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun