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UCI sweep assures title shot

BASEBALL: 'Eaters finish off sweep of Matadors and pull into second-place tie, two games behind UC Riverside, which awaits.

May 21, 2007|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — Having seen his team officially dispense with the formalities by capping a three-game series sweep with an 11-3 victory over Big West Conference visitor Cal State Northridge Sunday, UC Irvine baseball coach Dave Serrano was eager to talk about the task at hand.

"We're playing for the Big West championship," Serrano said of the regular-season-ending three-game series at UC Riverside that begins Friday.

The No. 12-ranked Anteaters improved to 38-14-1, 13-5 in conference, with their third straight dismantling of the Matadors. It was UCI's seventh straight victory, its seventh straight triumph against Big West competition, and its final regular-season home game. It also established a record for single-season wins since the program joined the NCAA Division I ranks before the 1978 season.

UC Riverside also completed a weekend sweep of Big West rival Long Beach State with a 7-6 win in 10 innings Sunday at Blair Field. The No. 16-ranked Highlanders (36-17, 15-3) take a two-game lead over both UCI and No. 11-ranked Long Beach State (34-17, 13-5), into the weekend after knocking the 49ers from first place into a second-place tie with the Anteaters.

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UCI will need to sweep the series to claim its first Big West title, but Serrano believes his team is a lock to be among the 64 teams chosen to play in the NCAA Regionals, for which UCI has put in a bid to be one of 16 hosts.

"Whether we win or lose [against Riverside], it's not a failed situation," Serrano said. "I think there's bigger and better things in front of us. But we're going for the championship. That was one of our first goals and that's what we set out to do."

The Anteaters finished what they set out to do against the Matadors, whose collective cape has been tread upon in 10 straight losses. Northridge (14-39, 2-16) has also lost 19 of its last 20 games.

UCI, which had blanked the Matadors in the first two games, found itself behind early, as Northridge scored twice in the first inning off freshman starting pitcher Eric Pettis.

But UCI answered with two runs on just one hit — a bunt single by senior Matt Morris — in the first, then scored seven runs in the second to return the festive mood to an Anteater Ballpark crowd of 865 on hand to honor six UCI seniors on senior day.

Pettis also restored UCI's mound supremacy, allowing just one more hit over his final five innings to earn his third win in as many decisions.

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