College Baseball: UCI aim to tame Tigers

Senior All-American Bibona makes first start in four weeks as Anteaters open regional today.

June 04, 2010|By Barry Faulkner

The UC Irvine baseball team battles defending national champion LSU in the first round of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional today at 2 p.m. at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium.

It is a rematch of the 2008 Super Regional in Baton Rouge, La., where the Tigers rallied from down, 7-4, with five runs in the ninth to win Game 2. LSU then blew out the Anteaters, 21-7, in the deciding third game to advance to the College World Series.

Senior Danny Bibona, named a first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Thursday, will start on the mound for No. 21-ranked UCI (39-17).


Bibona has been out since May 7 with inflamed rib muscles. The two-time Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year is 9-2 with a 2.10 earned-run average with 100 strikeouts in 90 innings.

LSU will counter with junior right-hander Austin Ross (5-4 with a 5.07 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings).

"He's an excellent pitcher and I have the utmost respect for him," LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said of Bibona, who pitched 7 1/3 strong innings, allowing nine hits, three earned runs and striking out eight in a no-decision in the aforementioned Game 2 in 2008. "He is going to be a tremendous challenge. I can't imagine another No. 2 [regional] seed in the country facing a bigger challenge than Danny Bibona."

UCI, the No. 3 seed in the regional that also includes UCLA (43-13) and Kent State (39-23), has won its last nine Friday games. The Anteaters, runner-up in the Big West, are 12-2 on Friday this season, 26-3 on Friday the last two seasons and 50-9 on Friday the last four seasons.

LSU, which opened the season ranked No. 1, lost 14 of 18 games from April 24 through May 18, before winning two of three against Mississippi State to earn a berth in the SEC Tournament.

LSU then swept four games to win the conference tournament and come in with burgeoning confidence.

"I guess that's what LSU baseball has been known for," said LSU senior first baseman Blake Dean, who his hitting .344 with 11 home runs and a team-leading 69 runs batted in. "When the postseason comes along, the Tigers are ready to play."

Ross, who has thrown well in his last five starts to earn the starting nod over 6-foot-7 junior right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (5-2, 7.49 ERA), said the postseason surge has been a matter of relaxing.

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