May 30, 2009

IRVINE, Calif. - One inning of offense was all No. 1 UC Irvine (44-13) needed to top defending national champion Fresno State (32-29) 4-2 in opening night action Friday at the Irvine Regional played at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark. The top-seeded Anteaters rallied for four runs in the fourth to advance to the winners bracket in a regional that boasts three 40-win squads.

UCI opened the deciding frame by loading the bases after two hit batters and a double down the left field line by Casey Stevenson. Jeff Cusick's bases-loaded walk and DJ's Crumlich's sacrifice fly each brought in runs and set up a two-run double off the bat of freshman Jordan Fox, who made just his fifth start of the season Friday.

UCI starter Daniel Bibona (12-1) showed why he is a first-team All-American during his first 3 1/3, retiring every batter he faced while striking out five. But the Bulldogs' first hit then gave them the game's first run in the top of the fourth, as Dusty Robinson's solo shot over the scoreboard in left put Fresno State up 1-0. Fresno State added another single run in the fifth when Brennan Gowens notched a leadoff single and later scored on a double by Jake Johnson.

UC Irvine threatened in the bottom of the eighth when, with one out and one on, Cusick blasted a shot to left. Robinson made a leaping catch at the wall for the Bulldogs and, with help from cutoff man Isacc Vivas, erased the runner at first for a double play.

Closer Eric Pettis earned the save after retiring the side in order in the ninth. His 17 saves equaled his mark from the 2008 season, a UCI best.

Bibona earned the win after working 7 2/3 innings and finishing with an Anteater postseason record 14 strikeouts.

Fox led the Anteaters offensively, finishing 2-for-3 with the two-run double. The victory placed UCI Head Coach Mike Gillespie just one win shy of the 850 career victory milestone.

Fresno State freshman right-hander Derek Benny (4-4) took the loss after allowing four runs on five hits over six innings pitched. The Bulldogs received a 2-for-3 outing from Johnson at the plate.

Play at the Irvine Regional continues Saturday with three-seed San Diego State (40-22) taking on Fresno State in an elimination game at 4:00 p.m., and two-seed Virginia (44-12-1) set to face UC Irvine at 8:00 p.m. The winner of the Irvine Regional will advance to face the winner of the Oxford Regional.