June 12, 2011


click here for box score

Super Regional Results, Schedules & Capsules


Irvine Storms Back to Beat Virginia

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The first half of UC Irvine’s do-or-die Super Regional affair with top-seeded Virginia wasn’t much different from its Game 1 loss.


The Anteaters trailed the Cavaliers 3-0 in Game 2 of the best-of-three series. They had made two errors, which resulted in two unearned runs. They had advanced one runner to third in the first four innings.


But a pinch-hitter led off the bottom of the fifth: Mother Nature.


Four hours and 18 minutes later, Irvine came out a different team and stormed back to stun Virginia with a run in the sixth, two more in the seventh and three in the eighth in a 6-4 win that saved its season and forced a deciding game Monday at Davenport Field.


“I think the rain delay seemed to be what the doctor ordered, along with the ballpark hamburgers that we ate on the way out,” Anteaters coach Mike Gillespie said.


Added left fielder Drew Hillman (pictured): “I think the rain delay definitely helped us. It kind of seemed like halftime in a basketball game. When we came out for the second half after the rain delay, we really came out all fired up.”


Hillman was one of the ringleaders.


With two outs in the bottom of the sixth – UC Irvine (43-17) was the designated home team – Hillman ripped a hanging slider from Cavaliers starter Tyler Wilson that completely left the park, clearing the left-field bleachers with ease.


“Everyone got electrified when that happened,” Gillespie said.


Up until that point, the Cavaliers (53-10) hadn’t allowed a run in the series and a total of three runs in 40 NCAA tourney innings. Wilson left runners on second and third in the first with two strikeouts and cruised through the next three innings – the senior right-hander had innings of eight, eight and seven pitches from the second to fourth innings.


When the rains came and turned Davenport Field to soup, the status of Wilson and Irvine starter Matt Whitehouse (5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER) was in question. Wilson returned with his velocity intact and got through the fifth, although Jordan Leyland and Tommy Reyes made him throw 18 pitches between them to lead off the inning.


“I didn’t even think about it,” Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor said of sticking with Wilson, a reliever who became a starter this year. “That kid has given us everything. Four hour rain delay – I was really hoping we’d get one inning out of him.


“This kid’s an unbelievable teammate. His team’s always first. He’ll do anything. He really wanted the ball, and it proved to be the right move. He gave up one run through six innings and handed it to our bullpen. We just didn’t do enough.”


Wilson gave way to Justin Thompson, who walked Christian Ramirez to open the seventh. One out later, Reyes hit a sinking liner on a hit-and-run that centerfielder Kenny Swab appeared to consider diving for. Instead, Swab pulled up, and the ball bounced through him, allowing Ramirez to score from first and Reyes to advance to second. Ronnie Shaeffer hit the next pitch from Thompson up the middle to tie the game at 3.


“The field conditions were fine,” Swab said. “I just didn’t make a play on the ball to keep it in front of me. I should have done that just to allow the runners not to score. It just went through me, and you can’t let that happen.”


But Swab redeemed himself in the top of the eighth. It was the Cavaliers’ turn for a hit and run after Jared King singled with two outs. Swab lined a shot down the right-field line, where Sean Madigan raced over but slipped on the soaked turf, barely keeping the ball in front of him. King raced around third and gave Virginia a 4-3 lead and six outs away from its second trip to the College World Series in three years.


The Anteaters, who rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to eliminate UCLA in the Regionals, weren’t quite ready to end their season.


Hillman doubled down the left-field line to chase Thompson with one out in the eighth. Cavaliers closer Branden Kline (17 saves) entered and plunked Jordan Fox on his first pitch. Ramirez hit a fly ball to right to advance Hillman to third, and Fox stole second on a first-and-third play without a throw. Jordan Leyland hit a letter-high slider to the gap in left-center to score both runners for a 5-4 Irvine lead. Reyes then singled down the right-field line to score Leyland.


“Once Drew got those couple of big hits, I would say hitting is contagious for us,” Leyland said. “It has been like this all year. One hit after the other, and we were able to put together a couple good at-bats in each of those last three innings.”


Countered Virginia’s O’Connor: “I said coming into this weekend that Irvine was hitting .300 for a reason – they have good hitters. They face good pitching out in California. They’re not going to be in awe of our guys by any means. You have to execute your pitches against them to have a chance to get them out. For most of the game, we did. We didn’t at the end of the game, but nothing’s easy.”


Freshmen Andrew Thurman (4-3) closed out the Cavaliers with four innings, three hits, one earned run and four strikeouts.


UC Irvine, which was eliminated by Virginia in the 2009 Regionals, survived to see another day – a day that brings with it a ticket to Omaha.


“It’s do-or-die tomorrow,” Hillman said. “[Today] gives us some momentum going into tomorrow, but it’s a one-game playoff to get to Omaha, so I think both teams will come out pretty fired up.”


(photo courtesy of UCI Media Relations Office)