IRVINE, Calif. --- Matt Whitehouse pitched six shutout innings and Chris Rabago drove in three runs on three hits as UC Irvine posted an 8-4 win over Long Beach State Friday night in front of a season-best home crowd of 1,730 at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
The Anteaters (33-21, 15-11) took an early lead on Taylor Sparks' solo home run to lead off the second. The third baseman lifted a 1-0 pitch to left for his 10th round-tripper of the year, moving into a tie for third in the UCI single-season records with Bryant Winslow (1991). Ronnie Shaeffer followed Sparks with a single up the middle and Jerry McClanahan coaxed a full-count walk from starter Jake Stassi to put two runners on for Scott Gottschling, who gave UCI the three-run lead with a two-run single to left.
UCI struck again in the third as Dominique Taylor doubled to left to lead off the frame, took third on a wild pitch and cruised home on the run-scoring hit from Rabago.
The Anteaters repeated the formula in the fifth, this time with Grant Palmer leading off the inning with a double before scoring on a clean single from Rabago for the 5-0 advantage.
Sparks and Shaeffer singled and doubled, respectively, to start the sixth and Jeff Stephens came up clutch with a one-out double to left to increase the lead to seven runs.
The Dirtbags were stymied by Whitehouse, who surrendered just three hits in six innings. However, LBSU finally got on the board in the top of the seventh. Juan Avila and Ino Patron hit consecutive singles and Zack Rivera drove the first pitch over the left-field wall to cut into UCI's lead, 7-3 with his first home run of the year. After allowing consecutive one-out singles, Whitehouse gave way to Jimmy Litchfield. Litchfield looked to be out of the inning after inducing a grounder to second for the double-play but Grant Palmer was unable to come up with the ball as LBSU loaded the bases for Jeff McNeil, who drove in a run on a sacrifice fly.
That would be all for the Dirtbags as Litchfield pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth innings for his first save of the year.
Whitehouse improved to 5-6 after striking out five and allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 6.1 innings. Litchfield struck out one and scattered three hits in 2.2 innings of work.
Rabago, who tripled in a run in the seventh, finished the night 3 for 4 with three RBI while Stephens and Gottschling each had a pair of RBI on one hit.
Stassi fell to 4-4 after giving up seven runs on 10 hits in six innings of work. Rivera led the Dirtbags with three runs batted in on two hits.
The series concludes Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m.