Due to the mayhem that is March Madness, Zotcubed has fallen a bit behind the times with UCI’s perennial powerhouses, Anteater Baseball and Anteater Men’s Volleyball. Let’s see how things have gone on the diamond today… (with volleyball to come tomorrow)


The big news out of Anteater Ballpark is the two potentially crushing injuries suffered by ace Matt Whitehouse and senior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer. Shaeffer went down about a week ago with a broken finger, and was reported by the Daily Pilot’s Barry Faulkner to be out for 2-3 weeks. There is also speculation that he could be out until May in the worse case scenario. Whitehouse meanwhile has not pitched since March 2, out with an inflamed rotator cuff.

The good news: the Anteater ship has been dealt a blow but is no sunken ship. Kyle Hooper has stepped into the weekend rotation admirably, currently rocking a 1.30 ERA after three starts (5 games total) and 27.2 innings pitched. Hooper could not have picked a better time to fulfill his highly-touted potential out of high school.

I spoke at length about UCI’s pitching depth this season, and it’s really been coming in handy already, early in the 2012 season. Redshirt senior Nick Hoover pitched 7.2 scoreless innings in his first start since his sophomore campaign, carrying UCI to a weekday win over Washington State. Hoover has yet to give up an earned run this season in 12.2 innings pitched.Phil Ferragamo was another guy who took a spot start due to the rain re-scheduling so many games and throwing things out of wack. He did okay against Pepperdine in another weekday start, giving up two runs in four innings, and will probably stick to the pen going forward. His 2.95 ERA and 17 K’s in 21.1 innings is about right.

Crosby Slaught (2.42 ERA, 6 GS, 26 IP) has been doing a decent job, except for his inability to go deep into games. Not sure if his short leash is due to his performance purely or possible injury/durability concerns. Andrew Thurman continues to battle after a bit of a rough start to the season, and his last three starts have all been quality. I think he can still improve on his current 3.16 ERA and .253 BAA. Transfers Race Parmenter and Mark Trentacosta have been doing a good job in the pen, both with ERAs below 1.50, while two of last year’s stalwarts, Jimmy Litchfield (5.79 ERA) and Andy Lines (21.60 ERA in just 1.2 innings pitched), have yet to find their groove.

The UC Irvine batters remain the big question about 1/3rd of the way into the season. As a collective they are hitting an uninspiring .262, with just two total home runs as a team. While some rookies have stepped up admirably, a few key veterans have been struggling like never before. Here are a few notable batting stats from the lineup:

The Good

Jeff Stephens… .400/.467/.475

Connor Spencer… .364/.473/.409

Jordan Fox… .351/.438/.432

Chris Rabago… .333/.478/.444

Ryan Cooper… .294/.294/.412

DJ Crumlich… .282/.370/.346

Christian Ramirez… .278/.447/.370

The Not So Good

Kris Paulino… .241/.385/.276

Dillon Moyer… .233/.361/.300

The Ugly

Tommy Reyes… .203/.358/.313

Scott Gottschling… .191/.321/.234

Jerry McClanahan… .167/.286/.250

Ronnie Shaeffer… .147/.268/.147

Taylor Sparks… .128/.306/.282

– From a quick glance, Big West Player of the Week Jeff Stephens is the obvious bright spot in this group. The UCI Athletics website notes that Stephens has six multi-hit games in his last seven, including four straight. He has cemented his everyday spot in the lineup.

– Spencer appears to be a quality bat already, even as a freshman. Rabago is the freshman catcher/3B who is drawing starts in place of Shaeffer. If he keeps hitting at that clip, McClanahan may lose his hold as primary backup catcher.

– Fox, Crumlich and Ramirez all appear to be on par to their career norms/trajectory. Fox is his usual stellar self, leading the team with 14 RBIs and six stolen bases. He has also played some second base as a left-handed thrower.

– Paulino and Moyer, as underclassmen, are doing okay, if not spectacularly. Dillon recently had by far his best offensive series as an Anteater, hitting .556 against Nevada. If he can build on this past weekend, Moyer can be a huge boost for UCI.

– Reyes is probably the biggest concern from the last group. After hitting .348 as a freshman with an unsustainable .410 BABIP, Reyes dropped to .229 when his BABIP dropped to .253. Last year, when he nudged his season average back up to .263, his BABIP was again at a lucky .331. I’m willing to bet that a combination of a BABIP on par with his sophomore season as well as a bit of pressing due to the lack of other big bats in the lineup is the reason for his crummy BA so far.

– Gottschling has dropped into a time share with the swing happy Cooper, but together, UCI may have a productive corner outfielder yet. At least Gottschling has come up with two clutch hits in the last two weekend series (Nevada and BYU), as well as several perfectly-executed sac bunts (leads the team with five).

– Sparks’ ugly numbers are a bit of a concern for sure, but it’s clear that Gillespie is willing to give him the playing time needed to adapt to college pitching. Shaeffer is the bigger enigma, as he has apparently lost the ability to drive the ball with authority. Although his BABIP has also steadily decreased with his declining BA, Shaeffer is too good to bat below .150. Hopefully he can get on track soon after coming back from that broken injury.

UCI takes on Dartmouth this weekend for the first time in school history. A series sweep would be ideal, a series win all but essential. Rip ’em!