Welcome to the Regional of Death.
The UC Irvine baseball team finished the regular season as the number one team in the nation. The Anteaters boast one of the best one-two punches in the nation with Daniel Bibona and Christian Bergman. They have one of the best closers in the nation in Eric Pettis, and one of the most balanced offenses from the top to the bottom of the line-up. They rank in the top 10 in the nation in fielding percentage and didn’t drop a weekend series all season. Above all, they finished five games ahead of California State University, Fullerton in the potent Big West conference and even took two of three games from the Titans in the regular season.
What are we rewarded with? One of the toughest Regionals in NCAA history.
The Anteaters did win one of eight national seeds, but were placed a lowly sixth, which is egregious for the first-ranked team in the nation. Even less fair is that Fullerton was awarded a two seed.
To make matters worse, the University of Virginia, San Diego State University and Fresno State University were thrown in the Irvine Regional.
UVA is one of the hottest teams in the nation coming off an ACC Tournament victory. The Cavaliers were unfairly shopped to the West Coast for a regional the second straight season, having gone to Fullerton last year. They are arguably the strongest number two seed in the nation.
San Diego State has one of the best arms college baseball has ever seen in Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander has three exceptional pitches, including a fastball that has been clocked in at 103 mph. He will be the first overall pick in next week’s MLB draft.
The four-seed, Fresno State, is no team to overlook. It won the National Championship last season as a four and return many strong contributors from last season. However, the Bulldogs were eliminated from the Regional on Saturday after being defeated by UCI on Friday and SDSU on Saturday.
What more did UCI have to do?!
Bibona did pitch a masterful seven and two-thirds innings on Friday, but the Anteater bats and gloves went cold against a steaming Cavalier squad. Some of that steam rubbed off on the Anteater bats however as they exploded for 14 runs against SDSU in the first game on Sunday. However, Virginia was simply too good on Sunday night as they stymied UCI, the top-ranked team in the nation, for a second time last weekend en route to a 4-1 win to advance to the Super Regionals next weekend.
What makes matters even worse is that our cross-town rivals received a cakewalk with Gonzaga University, the University of Utah and Georgia Southern University in their field. The Titans will cruise into the Super Regionals when their much more deserving cross-town rival will be stting at home.
While some luck can be accounted on a couple of UVA’s runs, at the end of the day the Anteaters simply couldn’t score against the impressive UVA pitching staff.
Moreover, UVA looked like the Anteaters of the last two years: young, scrappy and relentless. They outdid the Anteaters in every facet of the game. They were sent out West for the second straight year for a Regional, and I am happy that they are competining in a Super Regional for the first time in program history.
As much as it hurts to see my Anteaters get shafted by the NCAA selection committee and then fall in the Regionals to a second seed, I will be rooting for the Cavaliers the rest of the way. They are a team with no holes, limitless potential, and inspiring drive. UVA plays vintage UCI baseball.
I hope the Cavaliers top the Titans, it would be the only way to salvage our downfall.
Afterall, UVA was the only survivor of Regional of Death.
Cavaliers, thanks for staying. Good-bye and good luck. Zot.