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UCI’s Bibona a game-changer in 5-2 win

Baseball: Pitcher’s changeup helps him lead Anteaters to win over Mustangs in Big West opener Friday.

March 27, 2009|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — Much has been made about the new administration in Washington, D. C. and its promise for change.

But change has long been the thing on Friday night for the UC Irvine baseball team.

And, well, nothing has changed this season, as junior left-hander Danny Bibona, with his swing-stuttering changeup, has assumed the Friday-night starting assignment from former All-American Scott Gorgen, whose change was generally considered the best in college baseball in 2008.

Bibona’s off-speed offering is so devastating, it adds venom to a fastball that fails to impress professional scouts, or their radar guns.

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But hitters from visiting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo were duly impressed, as Bibona pitched seven strong innings to key the Anteaters’ 5-2 victory in the Big West Conference opener at Anteater Ballpark.

The win improved No. 10-ranked UCI to 14-7, while dropping the No. 19-ranked Mustangs to 17-5, ending their eight-game win streak.

“I think he was, once again, money,” UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of Bibona (4-1), who struck out eight and allowed just four hits in his final six innings, after surrendering two first-inning runs on three hits.

“He really was successful with his changeup and once he’s successful with his changeup, he gets guys with that fastball. People don’t think he can get them with that fastball, because it isn’t 95 [mph, more consistently around 86 to 88 mph, Gillespie noted]. And, he throws a lot of good strikes with [the fastball].”

Bibona said he threw a good strike to Cal Poly right fielder Bobby Crocker, the second batter of the game who drove it over the 405-foot sign atop the center-field fence for a home run.

Cal Poly, which came in hitting .337 as a team — 42 points higher than UCI — added a run on a hit batsman and two softly hit singles, the latter of which ticked off Bibona’s glove for an infield hit that made it 2-0.

But that was all the Mustangs could muster against Bibona and junior All-American closer Eric Pettis.

“That’s a team that clearly can hit, “ Gillespie said of Cal Poly. “They’re geared up from the time they come up the steps from the dugout. We certainly hope we get the same kind of mix of pitches [today] and [Sunday], because if we have to throw 3-1 or 3-2 fastballs, it could be a long day.”

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