May 30, 2009

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Hultzen, Virginia blank No. 1 UC Irvine

By Abbey Mastracco

Special to

IRVINE, Calif. - While the zeros began to pile up out in Texas, in Orange County the orange team promptly put a stop to the zeros in the fifth inning. However, the orange team was not the Orange County team.

That team, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, was shut out on its own turf.

No. 7 Virginia (45-12-1) took down No. 1 UC Irvine (44-14) Saturday night 5-0 at Anteater Ballpark. Four errors and three double plays, two coming with runners in scoring position, proved costly for the top-ranked Anteaters.

Both teams went scoreless until the bottom of the fifth when the Cavaliers put up two runs as the result of a botched double play and an outfield error. A throwing error by Irvine shortstop Ben Orloff in the sixth helped Virginia spark a three-run rally.

Irvine’s performance surprised all parties in attendance.

“Part of our story this year was that we have played very, very consistent defense,” Irvine head coach Mike Gillespie said. “At times we’ve even played highlight defense, very, very good defense. So this is really atypical for us.”

“Today was very uncharacteristic of Cal Irvine,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “And when that happens, and you’re playing in their ballpark, you have to capitalize on it.”

Friday night was supposed to be Danny Hultzen’s night, but with a more favorable left-handed match-up Saturday, Hultzen got his time to shine. The southpaw took full advantage of it, tossing a little more than seven scoreless innings.

Tyler Wilson and Matt Packer did their jobs out of the bullpen, holding Irvine scoreless over one and 2/3.

“I thought it was one of his better outings of the year,” O’Connor said. “He pitched out of numerous jams, he really stepped it up.”

Hultzen (10-2) proved hit-able, as the Anteaters were able to swipe six hits off the freshman. Several times Irvine looked to be rallying, only to end the inning still scoreless.

The Anteaters blew their biggest chance late in the game. With one out in the top of the eighth, Orloff striped a single up the center off Hultzen. Wilson was then brought on in relief and immediately gave up two straight singles to load the bases with just one out and cleanup man Jeff Cusick on deck.

Cusick chopped a grounder to shortstop Tyler Cannon who made a quick flip to second for a big, 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.

“We weren’t really shocked that they made that play,” Hultzen said. “We have confidence in our defense that when the ball is put in play they’re going to make the play.”

Christian Bergman (8-2) took the loss, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits and striking out seven over 5.2 innings. Relievers Noel Avison and Matt Dufour limited the Cavaliers to just one hit in 1.1 innings.

The Anteaters now face elimination and will play San Diego State at 4:00 p.m. PST Sunday. The Cavaliers advance to the final game and will play the winner at 8:00.