June 12, 2011

CBI Live - UC Irvine 6, #1 Virginia 4

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Thurman Lifts Anteaters

Irvine’s Super Fan Makes Noise


By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder    


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – After the four-hour, 18-minute rain delay, UC Irvine put its season’s fate in the hands of a freshman.


Andrew Thurman was up to the challenge.


Thurman tossed the final four innings, getting ahead of Virginia hitters with a nice change and then pounding the zone with an upper-80s fastball. He pitched around a double in the seventh and may have escaped the eighth without a run had right fielder Sean Madigan not slipped on the wet grass on a base hit down the line. And he coasted in the ninth, capping a 6-4 win that ensured a rubber game Monday for the right to play in Omaha.


“Obviously in a best-case scenario, if we were to be here for three games, we would like to have had Thurman start the third game,” Anteaters coach Mike Gillespie said. “Nonetheless, we were down 3-0, and there isn’t going to be a tomorrow if we didn’t manage to come back today, so it was not a tough decision.”


Gillespie said that even though Thurman is a freshman, he has been in tough situations before this season and in what his coach called the “single-best high school league in California.” But Gillespie also admitted the Super Regional stage against the top-seed in the tournament was much bigger.


“It wouldn’t have been a shock to see a guy in that situation crack,” Gillespie said. “He has for the most part demonstrated uncommon poise and experience that belies his years. I’m not dumbstruck that he did so well.”


* * *


Forgotten play of the night: Virginia had just scored on Kenny Swab’s double down the right-field line that Madigan slip-saved from going to the wall. Davenport Field was rocking, and Cavaliers fans were beginning to count outs to Omaha. David Coleman came up and lined a shot to short that D.J. Crumlich leaped and speared, saving a hit and another run that would have put the Cavaliers up 5-3. 


* * *


One UC Irvine drew the ire – and later the respect and praise – of some Virginia fans.


Keith Franklin (right) is known as Super Fan, and watching him throughout the game is almost like watching the game itself. Seldom stationary for more than a few seconds, Franklin cheers loudly, often leading other fans in support of the Anteaters.


Right before the game, he tugged at the net above the Cavaliers dugout to get fired up. He was head-banging as he stomped his feet into the grandstand. He clapped. And clapped. And clapped.


“He’s great,” Irvine left fielder Drew Hillman said. “A little outrageous at times…he loves the Anteaters, so it’s great to see him out here.”


Before the rain delay, it seemed as most Virginia fans wanted him to pipe down. Right after, two young Cavaliers fans approached a shirtless Franklin (assuming the shirt he was wearing was drenched in the downpour) and asked him to sign a ball. A female Virginia fan then asked for a picture. And others stopped by for an autograph or to get a picture before the game resumed.


It also appeared a Virginia usher told Franklin to put a shirt on. He put on a crisp, white Irvine jersey and presumably enjoyed a big Anteaters comeback.


Thanks to @BigWestBaseball for passing along this great story about Franklin from Barry Faulkner at the Daily Pilot:   http://tinyurl.com/69mzsgr


* * *


Will Roberts will start for Virginia Monday, and Gillespie said Crosby Slaught likely will be the starter for Irvine. Cavaliers Game 2 starter Tyler Wilson said, “I don’t know about that,” when asked if he could give an inning or two on Monday. And Gillespie said UCI Game 1 starter Matt Summers, “is going to want to have a fistfight if he doesn’t get put on the list to be out there, say late in the game.”


* * *


Speaking of Wilson, it was pretty special what he was able to do. Over the span of about six hours – four hours and 18 minutes of a rain delay – the senior right-hander limited UC Irvine to one run in six innings.


“I felt great when I got back out there,” Wilson said. “I was just trying to get some momentum on our side and kind of treat it like another start.”


His fastball was 88-89 before the break, and his first fastball was 89 after the break. Jordan Leyland worked an eight-pitch walk right after the rain delay, and Tommy Reyes then flew out on the 10th pitch he saw – in the three previous innings, Wilson had thrown 23 pitches.


“He still had his velocity,” Leyland said. “But I felt having that little break gave him a little stiffness. He wasn’t able to locate his pitches as well.”


* * *


Virginia took its lead by taking advantage of every little thing UC Irvine did wrong.


Chris Taylor singled to open the game and took off for second on a great dirt-ball lead. Irvine catcher Ronnie Shaeffer blocked and fired low to second, where neither second baseman Tommy Reyes nor shortstop D.J. Crumlich stopped the ball, allowing Taylor to move to third. He scored on John Hicks’ sac fly.


In the third, starter Matt Whitehouse hit nine-hole hitter Keith Werman on the first pitch. Taylor bunted Werman to second, John Barr grounded out to move him to third and he scored on Hicks’ infield single. The Cavaliers scored without getting the ball out of the infield.


And in the fifth, Collin Harrington singled and was bunted to second by Werman. Taylor walked to put men on first and second. Barr grounded to third baseman Brian Hernandez, who tried but failed to tag Harrington and had to settle for a force out at second – had he gone to second in the first place, it likely would have been an inning-ending double play. With two outs, Hicks hit a grounder to Hernandez, whose throw to first was wild and allowed Harrington to score.




UCI head coach Mike Gillespie said the home run by Drew Hillman electrified the team. It's no wonder. The Anteaters entered the tournament with the lowest home run total among tourney teams. UC Irvine now has 14 dingers, about one every four games.



Wondering what the teams did during the long rain delay?

Irvine's Drew Hillman said the team went to the hotel and watched TV. Virginia's Tyler Wilson said he threw a little bit to stay loose until everyone realized it was going to be a long delay. He "got some food in me" and tried to stay mentally focused.



Virginia became the final team in the nation to reach double digits in losses.