IRVINE — Another UC Irvine baseball loss sent the historians reeling through the years Tuesday night. The Anteaters, on then other hand, are just plain reeling.
Visiting USC's 6-4 nonconference triumph was the fifth straight setback for UCI, equaling the program's longest losing streak since 2004. It's the first time UCI has lost five consecutive regular-season games since 2003 and the first time Coach Mike Gillespie has lost at least five straight since the 2007 season at USC, after which he was fired to end a 20-year run at the helm of his alma mater.
It was a familiar weakness that felled the hosts (31-21) against the Trojans (20-33), as the bullpen squandered a 3-0 lead and wasted four shutout innings from starter Evan Brock to virtually kill any remaining thoughts of a postseason bid.
The first four pitchers who took the mound after Brock, combined for two innings. Together, they allowed five hits, six runs, five earned runs and three walks, while striking out just one.
UCI relievers Race Parmenter and Elliot Surrey allowed no runs and one hits in three combined innings to close it out, but the USC bullpen needed only two men to cover the final eight innings with command.
Including three losses over the weekend at Cal State Fullerton, the UCI bullpen has now allowed 12 earned runs and 14 hits in 8 2/3 innings.
It was enough to launch a lung-expanding postgame rant from Gillespie that must have burned his downtrodden players' ears.
"I did [vent]," said Gillespie, who obviously wasn't done discussing his frustration. "I have not often felt, even through the bad times, that I am just embarrassed … and bewildered.
"It wasn't everybody. We had some hits to start the game and I think Brock competed . It's kind of [about] the [relievers] we need to put out there … and they let us down. And I'm embarrassed, embarrassed, embarrassed, embarrassed. I'm sick about it, and it was important."
Brock, fresh off allowing a walk-off, three-run home run Sunday at Fullerton, blanked the Trojans on three hits. He walked one and struck out one, before exiting to start the fifth.
Brock was staked to a 3-0 lead as the 'Eaters opened the game with singles by Chris Rabago, Dominique Taylor and Connor Spencer against USC starter Brooks Kriske. Spencer's single drove in Rabago to open the scoring and Taylor Sparks followed with a sacrifice fly to double the lead.
Grant Palmer singled to lead off the second inning and advanced to second on Ryan Cooper's sacrifice bunt. One out later, Palmer scored on Taylor's single and it appeared UCI had exorcised the demons that led to three heartbreaking losses at Fullerton.
But, just as it had been against the Titans, the devil was in the deliverance.
For USC, Kyle Davis came on in the second and allowed three hits and one run in three innings. He struck out three and did not issue a walk.
But junior right-hander James Guillen was even better in clearly his best outing of the season. Guillen, who had a 12.25 earned-run average in 3 2/3 previous innings this season, allowed one hit and one run in five innings to earn the victory, his only decision of the year.
Taylor, one of six Anteaters to contribute to the seven-hit attack, was two for four.
USC, which had lost three straight and has had two five-game losing streaks this season, had four players with two hits apiece.
UCI will close out its season with a three-game home series beginning Thursday against Big West Conference rival Long Beach State.
SCORE BY INNINGS
USC 6, UC Irvine 4
USC 000 040 200 – 6 9 0
UCI 210 000 100 – 4 7 2
Kriske, Davis (2), Guillen (5) and Stubbs; Brock, Hooper (5), Merten (5), Litchfield (5), Ferragamo (7), Parmenter (7), Surrey (8) and McClanahan. W – Guillen, 1-0. L – Merten, 4-3. 2B – Landecker (USC), Zebrack (USC) 2, Stahel (USC) . 3B – Cooper (UCI) .Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun