IRVINE, Calif. — After 21 scoreless innings to begin the season, UC Irvine’s Kyle Hooper finally gave up a run. In the fifth inning, Brigham Young was able to put together a pair of singles and a groundout to end Hooper’s scoreless stretch, but that was all the Cougars would get on the night.
Despite only having four hits, Irvine (7-5) took the opener of the three-game set 3-1 Thursday night at Anteater Ballpark.
Hooper was pressed into starting the first game due to an undisclosed injury, but it didn’t seem to faze the 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior. He continued what he’s done all season, mixing his 88-89 mph fastball with a breaking ball and a very good changeup. Hooper pitched six innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out seven. The right-hander is now 3-0 and has 25 strikeouts in 23 innings.
“This is a guy that’s had a lot of promise for two years and it looks like he’s turning into the guy we all thought he could be,” head coach Mike Gillespie said after the game. “His ceiling is very, very high.”
“He’s going to get stronger. He’s going to throw with more velocity and with that will come better bite on the breaking ball. He’s made tremendous strides with the change[up]. His command has come along. I’d like to have his future.”
Hooper was staked to a three-run lead after the first inning. The Anteaters loaded the bases on a Christian Ramirez double, a walk and a hit by pitch. Scott Gottschling, who came into the game batting .161, blasted a 2-2 pitch over Kelton Caldwell’s head in left field for a bases-clearing double.
The Anteaters other two hits came in the seventh inning with two outs, prompting a pitching change, but Chris Howard recorded the final out of the inning to keep the score 3-1.
BYU’s (4-5) only threat came in the ninth inning when a single to shallow centerfield and an infield single off the foot of Phillip Ferragamo put runners on the corner. Gillespie went to lefty Jimmy Litchfield and he got a lazy flyout to end the game. Litchfield was credited with his first save of the season.
Wes Guenther had a pair of hits for BYU as did Ramirez for Irvine. Chris Capper took the loss to fall to 0-3 this season. The two teams return to Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. PST for Game 2 of the series.
Check out the full photo gallery from the UC Irvine/Brigham Young Thursday night matchup below: