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College Baseball: Revenge on Anteaters' minds

UCI gets rematch with LSU to open regional play at UCLA on Friday.

June 01, 2010|By Barry Faulkner

There was a time when seeing its school logo on an ESPN telecast of the NCAA Regional pairings would spur a robust roar of excitement from UC Irvine baseball players.

And while the postseason routine has lost a bit of its novelty for the Anteaters, who are making their fifth straight regional appearance and their sixth in the last seven years, there was some added emotion to go with the understated murmur Sunday that accompanied the discovery of this year's assignment in the Los Angeles Regional.

UCI (37-19) will meet defending champion LSU (40-20) Friday at 2 p.m. in the opener of the regional hosted by UCLA (43-13) at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Kent State (39-23) is the other team in the double-elimination event from which one team will advance to a Super Regional.

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The eight winners of the best-of-three Super Regionals will advance to the College World Series.

UCLA, the No. 6 national seed, ranked No. 8 in Monday's Baseball America poll and coached by former UCI head man John Savage, will meet Kent State at 6 p.m. Friday.

The regional will conclude Sunday, or Monday if a second title game is needed.

UCI is ranked No. 21 and LSU is No. 23.

UCI is the No. 3 seed in the regional. LSU is the No. 2 seed and Kent State is the No. 4 seed.

It's the second straight year UCI will face the reigning NCAA title holder to open a regional. But this one is more noteworthy than last year's meeting with Fresno State at Anteater Ballpark, because it is a rematch of the 2008 Super Regional in which LSU rallied from the precipice of elimination to win in Baton Rouge and advance to Omaha.

"Bring 'em on," UCI senior All-American pitcher Danny Bibona said of the Tigers, who trailed, 7-4, with three outs left in a Game 2 Super Regional game they rallied to win, 9-7 in 2008. LSU then won the deciding game, 21-7, to deny UCI a second consecutive trip to the College World Series.

"Revenge," added Bibona, who was in line for the victory in the aforementioned Game 2 against LSU. Bibona, expected to return after a three-week absence due to inflamed rib muscles, struck out 14 in 7 2/3 innings to earn the win in last year's home regional opener against Fresno State. "It will be cool to get a shot to play [LSU] in California."

UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who has guided 18 of his 23 college teams to the postseason (15 in 20 seasons at USC), also said the LSU rematch will not hurt his team's motivation.

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