Lead-off man Tommy Reyes is UCI's unlikely RBI leader in 2012 thus far. (UCI Athletics)

After one weekend of play, UCI baseball is 3-1. A bit disappointing to drop a home game so early, but in baseball one loss is nothing to cry over. Some more thoughts on what we learned from the Urban Invitational sweep and the home opener loss to UNLV after the jump.

1. It’s clear that the UCI offense lacks depth as much as the pitching staff has it, an odd anomaly that demands UCI’s clutch hitting and defensive play to always play at a high level. Both of those categories faltered on Monday, and the result was a 3-2 loss.

2. This being said, the returning vets in the lineup are posting impressive numbers. I get the feeling that these guys know that they are being counted on. Tommy Reyes was named Big West Player of the Week for hitting .417 with 6 RBIs all from the lead-off spot. After four games Jordan Fox is hitting .500 with an impressive .632 OBP. Only DJ Crumlichis currently struggling, with a .118 average that is sure to rise.

3. Some of the freshman who have emerged as starters already: Kris Paulino, who has started three of the last four; Taylor Sparks, who has started at both 3B and LF; and Jerry McClanahan and Connor Spencer battling it out for the DH job. With the bases loaded and no out in a crucial seventh inning rally, it was freshmen Chris Rabago and Ryan Cooper who could not bring in the run, making two straight outs without advancing runners.

4. UCI is a bit banged up, which I suppose is good to get out of the way earlier rather than later. Both Matt Whitehouse and Andrew Thurman are not at full strength according to the Daily Pilot’s Barry Faulkner. Whitehouse’s knee cartilage tweak sounds painful, but I’m more worried about Thurman’s tender shoulder. An arm injury to a pitcher seems to blow up into a serious injury more often than not. Christian Ramirez also missed Monday’s game due to some sort of skin ailment. Get well soon.

5. Kyle Hooper impressed on Saturday by pitching four shutout innings of relief against Southern, giving up only one hit and two walks while picking up the win. His performance inspired this article touting his MLB draft potentialwhile also being an encouraging sign for the rest of the season. If Hooper can put it all together this year and push for a weekend starting spot, the move may allow a guy like Thurman who isn’t at 100% to move to the bullpen.

6. More on the pitching trend thus far: Coach Mike Gillespie seems like he will be giving a quick hook to pitchers who struggle in the middle innings, knowing that his deep bullpen can pick up the slack. For example, Crosby Slaught has only pitched 6.2 innings combined in his two starts, despite maintaining a 1.35 ERA. Whitehouse and Thurman, presumably due to their injuries, only went a combined 5.1 innings.

7. Last time I wrote about the pitchers, I noted that if just one of the new guys were to step up, UCI would be in great shape. Well, it looks like three guys early on have already earned playing time from Gillespie. Junior college transfers Race Parmenter and Mark Trentacosta seem ready to contribute in the late innings, with Parmenter even getting closing opportunities early on. We’ll see how long Parmenter, who is wearing former closer Eric Pettis’ No. 55, can hold on to the role, especially with a 9.00 ERA after two games. The real breakout pitcher thus far has been Mitch Merten, who has twirled 2.1 no-hit innings while picking up the save after both Parmenter and Jimmy Litchfield could not do so on Friday. Gillespie commented that Merten has improved by leaps and bounds from last season, which is great news for an even deeper bullpen.

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