IRVINE — An earlier start time allowed the UC Irvine baseball program to get in a season-opening victory Friday and avoid the heart of a rainstorm that put the rest of the nonconference weekend series with visiting Nevada in doubt.
But it was more than some preliminary precipitation that dampened the enthusiasm over a 17-4 trouncing of the Wolf Pack, from which heroics overflowed.
For despite 19 hits, accumulated by 10 different players, and a strong relief effort that included a win by freshman Andrew Thurman in his collegiate debut, the performance of junior Matt Summers allowed preseason doubts about the starting rotation to seep glaringly to the surface.
Summers one of three new weekend starters who earned the Friday assignment on the basis of his professional-level stuff, fell victim to some familiar command issues that helped create a pedestrian 8.51 earned-run average a year ago.
Summers, who did not allow a hit, gave up only one earned run and struck out three in 2 1/3 innings, walked four and hit three batters to leave what would have been an easy pitching victory for another Anteater arm.
Thurman, a product of Orange Lutheran High whose older brother and sister were multi-sport athletes at Corona del Mar High, struck out three in 3 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs, to claim the W.
"We were in need of a guy to go in the game and fill up the strike zone," said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who reluctantly, but justifiably took the ball from Summers with the Anteaters up, 8-1, in the third inning. "[Thurman] has done that [in practice] and he did do that."
Sophomore left-handers Andy Lines and Matt Whitehouse, as well as freshman lefty Jimmy Litchfield all worked scoreless relief innings to brighten the hosts' collective mound performance.
But the watershed success was achieved by an offense that scored in six of eight innings and had at least a hit in every frame against four Nevada hurlers. The 17 runs were the most in UCI's 33 openers and the first time the program has topped 10 in a season debut. The 13-run margin is also tops in UCI history, the previous high being nine.
Junior designated hitter Jordan Leyland went three for four with three runs batted in to lead a quartet of 'Eaters who either had three hits or three RBIs.
Junior first baseman Jordan Fox was three for five with two RBIs, while senior right fielder Sean Madigan was two for four with three RBIs and junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer was two for five with three RBIs.
Senior third baseman Brian Hernandez and sophomore center fielder Scott Gottschling had two hits and each drove in one, while junior second baseman Tommy Reyes was two for three and scored twice. Hernandez scored three times and walked twice, while junior shortstop D.J. Crumlich reached base four times and scored three times from the leadoff spot.
Leyland, a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder who lined a triple over the center fielder's head to key a four-run second inning, also had UCI's only stolen base.
"It was a good start," said Gillespie, who notched his 890th victory in his 24th season as a Division I coach. "A lot of guys got a lot of hits, we played solid defense [no errors] and our young pitchers that got in the game did a very nice job."
Gillespie said Summers, who started only four games in 21 appearances as a sophomore, may have been too pumped up for his 2011 debut.
"He was amped to the gills," Gillespie said of Summers, who threw 34 balls in 66 pitches. "He is the epitome of the guy that is his own worst enemy. Getting his emotions under control has been a battle for three years and that is going to be what he has got to overcome both here and as a pro. I'd like to think that today was about him being overamped for the first game."
Senior Drew Hillman also had a hit and an RBI, while freshman Pierce Bily and junior Christian Ramirez, a community college transfer, had one hit apiece in their Division I debuts.
The series is scheduled to continue today at 2 p.m. and conclude Sunday at 11:30 a.m., weather permitting.
UC Irvine 17, Nevada 4
SCORE BY INNINGS
Nev 001 111 000 – 4 8 2
UCI 441 501 02X – 17 19 0
Jameson, Rogstad (2), Prihar (4), Overbay (7) and Escobar, Turay (8); Summers, Thurman (3), Lines (7), Whitehouse (8), Litchfield (9) and Shaeffer. W – Thurman, 1-0. L – Jameson, 0-1. 2B – Shaeffer (UCI), Ramirez (UCI). 3B – Leyland (UCI), Madigan (UCI) . HR – Barnett (N).