With its second straight conference sweep, the UC Irvine baseball team now controls its own destiny.
The squad is currently tied for second place in the Big West Conference and will match up with UC Riverside for a pivotal three game series from May 25 to 27 on the road.
‘Looks like we’re playing for the Big West Championship,’ UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano said after the team’s series sweep against Northridge. ‘We get this chance because of the effort and passion these guys have given.’
UCR is currently in first place with a 15-3 conference record, while the Anteaters and Long Beach State are tied for second with a 13-5 record.
The chase for the Big West Title breaks down like this:
Long Beach will play Cal State Fullerton next weekend and there is no way the 49ers can win the conference title. The best the 49ers can do is tie both UCR and UCI for first place. But because both teams took two of three games against Long Beach earlier in the season, they hold the tiebreaker and would be given the title.
Thus, the only teams that have a chance to win the conference are UCR and UCI.
For UCI the mission is simple. The Anteaters will need to sweep all three games against the Highlanders to win the Big West Title.
UCI has been playing some of its best baseball of the season as of late, winning seven straight games.
The biggest strength the Anteaters will have heading into its series with Riverside is its pitching staff.
Sophomore starting pitcher Scott Gorgen and junior starter Wes Etheridge will take the ball on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
If these two continue to pitch the way they have all year, UCI should have no problem winning the first two games of the series.
Gorgen and Etheridge have combined for a 20-6 overall record, making up for a majority of the team’s 38 wins so far this season.
This brings us to Sunday’s game. While Serrano might admit that every game is important and the team is taking the series one game at a time, Sunday’s game will be one of the biggest games for the Anteaters.
Young freshman Eric Pettis will most likely take the ball for Serrano’s club with the pressures of a potential Big West Championship lying on his shoulders.
Pettis has a 3-0 record this season in four starts and was impressive in his latest outing, a six inning outing in which he gave up only two runs while striking out three batters.
‘Pettis is way mature for his age. He’s solidified himself as a Sunday starter,’ Serrano said.
But even if UCI fails to win the Big West Conference, the season will not be lost as the team will advance to the NCAA Regional, which is set to start in the beginning of June.
Before the team even thinks about the Regional, they will play their three biggest games of the season. The Anteaters have the ability to sweep the Highlanders and have been lights out on the road this season, compiling a 17-8-1 record.
UCI has played the entire season for this point and the team will now have a chance to accomplish one of its goals set during the beginning of the season
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