Falling in the Regional of Death
Irvine baseball saw itself in a scene they had never seen before. For the first time in history, UCI hosted a Regional and was the favorite to win. The perennial underdogs still came out with a chip on their shoulders in front of a crowd of over 3,000 at Anteater Ballpark and took care of Fresno State University 4-2 in the Friday night match.
Starter Daniel Bibona continues to shine as he showed again why he is one of the best big game pitchers in the nation, as he dazzling the defending national champion Bulldogs for seven and two-thirds innings, earning the win by striking out 14 batters and only walking two.
“He was outstanding. He’s a first-team All-American and has three strikeout pitches. His change-up is outstanding, his curveball was outstanding and he was putting his fastball exactly where he wanted to put it. He was outstanding. That’s why he is who he is,” said Fresno State Head Coach Mike Batesole.
The only blemish in his outing came in the fourth inning when Dusty Robinson blasted a solo shot over the scoreboard in left field.
“I felt like I was locked in [the] whole game, I felt very focused. I made a bad pitch, and he hit it very far. I stood there and watched it go to the scoreboard, I was impressed. I just got back on the mound,” Bibona said.
Sure enough, he stepped back on the mound and struck out the last two batters to end the the fourth inning.
The Anteater bats gave ’Eater Nation what they were came for as they brought four runs across the plate in the bottom of the fourth. UCI loaded the bases courtesy of two hit-by-pitches by Bulldog freshman starter Derek Benny and a double by Casey Stevenson. Jeff Cusick’s walk and DJ Crumlich’s sacrifice fly brought two runs in. Freshman Jordan Fox, making only his fifth start, laced a double to right-center, which scored two more.
“Felt great just having fans behind us, I could feel the electricity. Happy I got the start, and that coach believed in me that I can get the job done. It felt great,” Fox said.
Fox’s double was the difference on a night when the Anthill looked like, well, an anthill. Spectators scattered the grass hill like an army.
The Anteaters did threaten to strike again when Cusick sent a line-drive to left field only to see Robinson make a spectacular running grab and send the throw over to the cutoff man, who then rocketed a throw to first to double up Ronnie Shaeffer.
Eric Pettis would close out the game for the Anteaters as he retired the three Bulldogs he faced in the ninth inning to record his 17th save of the season.
“That was a heck of a college baseball game right there. It was very well-pitched, there was outstanding defense on both ends and that’s exactly what you expect to see. We hit a couple of guys and walked a guy right in a row there and they capitalized. That’s what championship ball clubs do,” Batesole said.
UVA 5 UCI 0
UC Irvine came into Saturday’s game against the University of Virginia as one of the most consistent teams in the nation. On Saturday, however, the Cavaliers outdid the Anteaters with a 5-0 upset victory at Anteater Ballpark.
The UCI defense committed an uncharacteristic four errors and the potent Anteater offense was shut out.
Freshman ace Danny Hultzen settled in and pitched a masterful 7.1 innings, improving his ERA to 2.01 on the season and to 10-2. UCI starter Christian Bergman was impressive early as he struck out seven batters in 5.2 innings pitched. He gave up five runs, four earned on eight hits. Many of the runs came courtesy of UCI errors that prolonged innings for the Cavaliers, who got clutch hitting from catcher Franco Valdes.
UCI left nine runners in scoring position, including when Jeff Cusick grounded into one of three Virginia double plays with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning after Ben Orloff, Eric Deragisch and Ronnie Shaeffer all singled.
UVA struck first in the bottom of the fifth when a potential-inning-ending double play was misplayed by Casey Stevenson, allowing a runner to score. The Cavaliers struck again with the next batter as Tony Asaro allowed the ball to go past him in right field, which allowed a runner to score.
A few more Irvine miscues on defense and opportune hitting by UVA accounted for three runs in the bottom of the sixth. It was all UVA needed.
While Hultzen only struck out five, he tested the Anteater batters in the cold, muggy nighttime air in the pitcher-friendly Anteater Ballpark. It was the first time all season the Anteater offense has been shutout.
Bergman fell to 8-3.
UCI 14 SD State 3
The clouds literally cleared and the sun heated up the UC Irvine bats. The UCI offense exploded for 14 runs against a solid San Diego State University team in the afternoon clip at Anteater Ballpark on Sunday.
Starter Crosby Slaught picked up the win for UCI (8-0) to remain undefeated. He pitched five innings and allowed three earned runs. Brock Bardeen and Corey Hamilton pitched a combined four innings of shutout ball.
“We battled, but we couldn’t compete against this Irvine club,” said Aztec Head Coach Tony Gwynn.
Ben Orloff and Ronnie Shaeffer led the way for the Anteaters as each recorded three hits and three RBIs. Six Anteaters recorded multiple hit games, and Jeff Cusick finished with four hits of his own.
“They don’t have that big middle of the lineup bat, they are all really good at moving the ball around,” Gwynn said.
UCI got on board in the first inning on an RBI-single from Shaeffer and a sacrifice fly by Casey Stevenson to score Eric Deragisch. UCI scored two more runs the very next inning courtesy of two Aztec fielding errors.
SDSU rebounded with two runs of their own on a two-run double by Ryan O’Sullivan in the fourth inning.
The Anteaters were poised to play Virginia in the afternoon contest and scored three more times in the bottom of the fifth inning on two-RBI double by Cusick and an RBI single by Dillon Bell.
SDSU would take Slaught out of the game early in the sixth inning on an RBI-double by Matt Parker. UCI responded with an RBI in the bottom half of the inning and explode the game open in the seventh.
Bell singled in Stevenson who had blasted his second double of the game. Orloff later brought in Jordan Fox, Bell and Cusick on a bases clearing double. Shaeffer capped the scoring in the inning with a sacrifice fly to score Orloff.
UCI’s 19 hits and 14 runs were the most runs scored in a largely pitching dominated Regional.
UVA 4 UCI 3
The University of Virginia Cavaliers came out on top Sunday night at Anteater ballpark in the second of two games 4-1 in front of 1,500. With the loss, UC Irvine’s historic season ended without a trip out of the Regionals.
Nevertheless, the ’Eaters put up a fight. Noel Avison pitched a brilliant 4.1 innings allowing one earned run on six hits. Kyle Necke picked up in relief and went four innings with two earned. Eric Pettis couldn’t contain the Cavalier offense as they tacked on a run on two hits in the final inning.
UCI could only muster up one run on the evening on four hits. UVA made an outstanding play on defense after outstanding play, including two webgems in the ninth inning that robbed Ronnie Shaeffer of an extra base it and snagged Deragisch out at first.
Both teams scored a run in the fourth inning, but the difference came in top of the sixth inning when Danny Hultzen scored on a triple that unluckily touched the first base bag and got past Jeff Cusick at first for a triple.
UVA added on two more runs in the ninth inning courtesy of two triples. Despite the ending, it was unfortunately the perfect ending capping UVAs performance in the Regional.
Andrew Carraway earned the win for UVA pitching seven innings with one earned run and three strikeouts.
“I thought it was a sensational college baseball game. We are extraordinarily proud of our guys and the way we played. UVA is a very, very, very good team who played really, really, really well,” said Gillespie.
Stevenson, Orloff, Fox, Bibona, and Deragisch were all named to the All-Regional Team.