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’Eaters finish sweep

Necke polishes off 27th wins in UCI’s last 29 conference games. Fullerton is up next.

April 05, 2010|By Barry Faulkner

NORTHRIDGE — Call it the Big West confidence.

Clearly the Big West Conference schedule brought out the best in UC Irvine last season, when the Anteaters won 22 of 24 conference games to claim the program’s inaugural Big West crown, as well as the consensus No. 1 national ranking.

And UCI seems to have picked up where it left off, as it polished off a three-game conference-opening sweep at Cal State Northridge with a 7-5 victory Saturday.

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Dating back to the final two conference games of 2008, the No. 24-ranked Anteaters (17-8, 3-0 in conference) have now won 27 of their last 29 conference games.

“That’s pretty staggering,” UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of the sparkling 29-game stretch in conference play. “I certainly hope that we feel like we’re a team that can be one of the teams that can win it. [Going 22-2] last season was such an aberration. You can’t afford the luxury of thinking that it’s going to be like that. Who knows what the number will end up being, but it’s hard for me to believe that 18-6 won’t end up winning it, or 17-7.”

The win sets up a first-place showdown with Cal State Fullerton, which visits Anteater Ballpark for a three-game Big West series that begins Friday at 6 p.m.

The Titans, unranked after posting a 12-11 record heading into conference play, swept UC Davis to join UCI atop the standings after the first weekend of conference action.

“That will be fun again,” Gillespie said of the series with Fullerton, coached by former UCI head man Dave Serrano. “But you’ve got to be careful about what kind of fun you wish for.

“It’s no surprise to anybody that Fullerton is going to be one of the teams you’ve got to go through to win it and it’s your only shot at them,” Gillespie said. “It will be exciting.”

There was, perhaps, more excitement than Gillespie would have liked Saturday, as Northridge (16-10, 0-3) rallied from a 7-0 deficit to force UCI to use three pitchers in relief of starter Eric Pettis.

Pettis cruised through seven innings, throwing just 69 pitches and allowing only five hits and one run.

But the Matadors, thanks to an error that led to three unearned runs, scored four in the eighth.

After Andy Lines yielded a two-run single to C.J. Belanger, sophomore Matt Summers induced a groundout to end the inning.

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