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Gillespie prefers the road

UC Irvine baseball coach, citing stacked field at Irvine Regional, says he wouldn’t want to play host to another at Anteater Ballpark.

June 04, 2009|By Barry Faulkner

UC Irvine baseball coach Mike Gillespie said Thursday that the first NCAA Regional played at Anteater Ballpark last weekend could be the last, at least for as long as he continues to guide the Anteaters.

“I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that I would come down on the side of hosting again,” Gillespie said. “This wasn’t my first rodeo [his teams have reached the postseason in 17 of his 22 seasons of Division I coaching, including 15 of 20 the teams he guided at USC, which he led to the national championship in 1998]. And I’m not naive about it. I trusted that common sense would dictate how [the NCAA selection committee] put teams together and where they would send teams [for the regionals].

“Now, I’m very bitter. I don’t want to come off as a whiner, but I’d say, no, I do not think I would host again.”

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Gillespie said the strength of the four-team field that included No. 7-ranked Virginia, which defeated the top-ranked Anteaters twice to advance to a Super Regional, justified his worst fears about making the decision to apply to be a regional host.

The field, which also included San Diego State and defending national champion Fresno State, was generally considered the toughest of the 16 regionals.

“Any regrets I have are only in hindsight,” said Gillespie, who guided UCI to a 45-15 record, the program’s first Big West Conference championship, and the consensus No. 1 ranking for the three weeks heading into the regionals. UCI was awarded the No. 6 national seed, four spots behind Cal State Fullerton, which finished five games behind the Anteaters in the Big West standings.

Fullerton swept three games to win its regional, which included visiting Georgia Southern, Gonzaga and Utah.

The Titans beat Utah twice and Gonzaga once, by combined scores of 41-9, to advance to a Super Regional, beginning Friday against visiting Louisville.

Gillespie said he was not the only team with a beef at the Irvine Regional.

“I know what the Virginia coaches thought, because I talked to them, and I agree,” Gillespie said. “When they weren’t a No. 1 seed and weren’t a host, and they saw where they were going, I’m sure they were bitter about it. And they should have been. They should not have been sent away from home.

“I’m trying not to sound like I’m whining, or crying or complaining. But if I were [Virginia], I’d have thought that I got [jobbed].

“[The Cavaliers, who are playing in their first Super Regional, beginning Friday at Mississippi] survived it, and pulled it off, and my hat’s off to them. They were wizards. They beat the best pitcher in the country [San Diego State junior Stephen Strasburg, who is expected to be the first pick in the Major League draft Tuesday] that first game and that changed the whole weekend. Sometimes a good team can win without playing great. But I thought Virginia played and pitched nearly flawlessly.

“It’s sad to say [he does not want to play host to another regional], because [Athletic Director] Mike Izzi and Paul Hope [associate athletic director in charge of facilities and events] and a lot of people worked really hard and did a great job of it at a location that doesn’t have everything in place. It was hard and it was expensive. So, I’m extremely disappointed for a lot of reasons.”


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