May 31, 2009

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UC Irvine Tops SDSU in Elimination Game

By Abbey Mastracco

Special to


IRVINE, Calif. - It might have been a sunny day in Orange Country Sunday afternoon, but as far as the San Diego State Aztecs were concerned they needed an umbrella. SDSU desperately needed something to shelter themselves from the deluge of hits top-ranked UC Irvine made rain down at Anteater Ballpark.

After being shut out on their home field the night before by No. 7 Virginia, UC Irvine was determined to set up a rematch. The Anteaters ensured this by striking early and often. Nineteen hits powered UC Irvine to a 14-3 win over SDSU in the second elimination game of the Irvine Regional.

The elimination of the Aztecs ended their first postseason run in 18 years. Head coach Tony Gwynn felt his team lost to what was a very impressive UC Irvine club. The Anteaters impressed the Hall of Famer in almost every fundamental way.

“I’ll buy into it,” Gwynn said. “They exploited just about everything they could. They moved the ball around, played hit and run. They force you to make plays defensively.”

The Anteaters (45-14) put up at least one run in six innings and wore down the Aztecs (41-23) in nearly three and 1/2 hours of play.

“We just couldn’t keep up with them offensively,” Gwynn said. “It wasn’t so much the long ball today. They just dead squared up on balls and put the bat on them.”

Right-hander Crosby Slaught (8-0) pitched solidly through just over five innings getting the win for the Anteaters. The Aztecs didn’t exactly get the same mileage out of starter Craig Rasmussen (1-2), as the southpaw lasted just an inning and 2/3 in only his second start of the season.

“He was a better fit, we thought,” Gwynn said. Gwynn chose the reliever over starters Jon Berger and Ryan O’Sullivan, who he had said were the favorites to start after Saturday’s game. “I thought Craig would be able to change speeds better. I thought he would be better at holding runners on, maybe make them think about their running game a little bit.”

Down 4-0, the Aztecs came back in the fourth inning to match two of Irvine’s runs. Berger retired the side in order in the bottom of the frame but pitched himself into trouble soon thereafter.

With two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Berger looked to be almost out of the inning when an Irvine base running blunder put the second out on the board. Berger then gave up back-to-back doubles to Casey Stevenson and Jeff Cusick, allowing the Anteaters to plate two more. Dillon Bell then laced a single to right and advanced to second on the throw, driving in one more and driving up the score to 7-2.

San Diego State was able to push one more across the plate in the next inning, but Irvine put up five more in the seventh and one more in the eighth to put the game completely out of reach.

Five Anteaters had multi-hit games with Ben Orloff (3 for 5, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2B, BB), Ronnie Shaeffer (3 for 4, 3 RBI, 1 R), Casey Stevenson (3 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 2B), Jeff Cusick (4 for 5, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2B) and Dillon Bell (3 for 3, 2 RBI, 1 R) all having monster days at the plate.

The win moved UC Irvine to 8-5 in regional games and gave head coach Mike Gillespie his 850th career win.