The Bruins (46-13), coached by former UCI head man John Savage, advance to the Super Regional they will likely play host to next week.
UCLA allowed just six runs in three regional games and junior left-hander Rob Rasmussen followed Bruins All-Americans Gerrit Cole (Friday’s starter) and Trevor Bauer (Saturday) to the bump with six strong innings Sunday to put his name in the win column alongside his more heralded teammates.
UCI, which defeated LSU, 4-3, earlier Sunday to advance in the double-elimination format, got four innings from starter Eric Pettis against UCLA.
Pettis, who allowed three runs on five hits in four innings, absorbed his second loss of the regional. He was the victim of a walk-off, two-run double in LSU’s 11-10 triumph in 11 innings in the opening round Friday, when he pitched three innings.
Sophomore Matt Summers, who entered the game with a staff-worst 9.12 earned-run average, took over for Pettis and retired the first nine he faced.
But Summers walked Tyler Rahmatulla to open the eighth, then hit Justin Uribe with a pitch while Uribe was squaring to attempt a bunt.
Regis, who homered in UCLA’s 6-3 win over LSU on Saturday, cleared the fence on the first pitch to expand what had been a precarious 3-2 lead.
Niko Gallego tripled home a run to put UCLA on top in the second, but UCI junior left fielder Drew Hillman powered his second home run of the day (his first against LSU) to right-center field to pull the ’Eaters even.
After UCLA scored twice in the fourth, UCI narrowed the deficit with a Jordan Leyland homer to right, his second dinger of the regional. It was the eighth round-tripper of the tournament for UCI, which entered with 33 homers in its first 56 games.
Junior Jon Hurst and sophomore D.J. Crumlich singled after Leyland’s homer to put runners on first and second in the fifth. But Rasmussen, a left-hander, fanned lefties Sean Madigan and Casey Stevenson to retire the side.
Hurst and Crumlich had back-to-back singles with two outs in the seventh, but were stranded when Madigan struck out against right-handed reliever Erik Goeddel.
Crumlich went three for four, while Hurst and Hillman went two for four to pace UCI’s nine-hit attack.
UCI’s fifth straight postseason appearance ended in the regional for the second straight year. A core of the nine seniors in the dugout Sunday played in a Super Regional at LSU in 2008, after helping UCI make the program’s first College World Series appearance in 2007.
Larson (six for 17 with three homers and eight runs batted in), senior Jeff Cusick (seven for 28 with six RBIs), Hillman (eight for 15 with two homers and three RBIs), Stevenson (seven for 18 with three RBIs), Leyland (five for 13 with two homers and five RBIs) and freshman pitcher Evan Brock (the winner vs. LSU) made the All-Regional team for UCI.
It was the first regional title since 2007 for UCLA, which broke its school record for single-season victories, topping the 1997 squad that went 45-21-1 on its way to the College World Series, the Bruins’ last visit to Omaha.
UCLA 6, UC Irvine 2
(Score by innings)
UCLA 012 000 030 – 6 7 0
UCI 010 010 000 – 2 9 1
Rasmussen, Goeddel (7), Klein (9) and Rodriguez; Pettis, Summers (5) and Larson. W – Rasmussen, 10-2. L – Pettis, 9-5. 2B – Dunlap (UCLA). 3B – Gallego (UCLA). HR – Hillman (UCI), Regis (UCLA).