May 29, 2009

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Bibona pitches UC Irvine past Fresno State

By Abbey Mastracco

Special to

IRVINE, Calif. - When the No. 1-ranked team in the nation faced the team that emerged as last season’s No. 1, the present beat out the past.

UC Irvine downed the No. 4-seeded Fresno State 4-2, Friday night at Anteater Ballpark. In a regional that is as rich with story lines as it is with talent, the Anteaters showed they are still the team to beat.

No. 1 UC Irvine (43-13) will take on No. 2 Virginia (44-12-1) Saturday night in the winners’ bracket at 8:00 p.m. PST. The defending national champs now face elimination and will play No. 3 San Diego State (40-22) in a winner-take-all game at 6:00 p.m. PST.

“Heck of a college baseball game right there,” Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole said. “Outstanding defense on both ends, exactly what you would expect to see.”

A four-run fourth inning helped power the Anteaters past the Bulldogs. UC Irvine capitalized on Fresno State starter Derek Benny’s wavering control to take the lead and never relinquish it.

“It was a game in which there wasn’t a real lot that happened,” UC Irvine head coach Mike Gillespie (pictured above) said. “We had real, good pitching from all three of our guys. We had a couple of good breaks.”

Danny Bibona (left) dominated the swing-happy Bulldog hitters in the win, and moved to 12-1 on the season. Bibona went 7.2 innings, giving up just two runs on five hits, walking one and striking out 14. Benny (4-4) took the loss in six innings of work.

“He was outstanding,” said Batesole, of Bibona. “He is one of, if not the best, left-hander in the country.”

A pitcher’s duel looked to be taking shape early on, with Bibona perfect through three and Benny facing just one over the minimum. The Bulldogs were the first to bite with a solo shot from Dusty Robinson in the fourth. The Anteaters answered right back and then some, posting a four-run fourth, and rattling Benny.

Benny’s control wavered in the fourth, as he hit Eric Deragisch, gave up a double to Casey Stevenson, hit Ronnie Shaefer and walked in a run by throwing four wide ones to Jeff Cusick. A sac fly from DJ Crumlich drove in another to tie the game at 2-2, and Jordan Fox crushed a ball deep to the right-center warning track for a two-out, bases-clearing double.

While Benny was visibly shaken by the inning, Bibona made few mistakes after giving up the solo homer to Robinson. He put his trust in his defense and cruised through the rest of his outing, giving up just on more earned run.

“I felt like I was locked in and focused but I made a bad pitch and went very far,” Bibona said. “I just got back on the mound and tried to feel the zone out again.”

“He doesn’t make many mistakes,” Robinson said. “And that’s where he gets you.”

Relievers Kyle Necke and Eric Pettis combined 1.1 innings of hitless relief. The Bulldogs tried to battle back and were fired up after a big defensive play in the bottom of the eighth. But Pettis struck out Jake Johnson to end the game and notch the save, his 17th on the season.

The save ties him for second in the nation, just two away from matching the 19 by San Diego State’s Addison Reed.


(photos courtesy of UCI Media Relations Office)