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UCI No. 3 seed in L.A. regional

'Eaters open Friday at 2 p.m. against Fresno State in four-team field that includes UCLA, USF.

May 30, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com

It didn't take UC Irvine senior Brian Hernandez long to identify the potential for revenge associated with the Anteaters' placement in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional hosted by UCLA was announced Monday morning.

Hernandez, the baseball team's star third baseman and closer, noticed quickly that by winning the four-team regional that also includes Fresno State (40-14) and San Francisco, UCI (39-16) could get a crack at Virginia, the No. 1 national seed, in the subsequent super regionals.

"Those are the last two teams that have knocked us out of the playoffs," Hernandez said of UCLA (33-22), which eliminated the 'Eaters to win the Los Angeles Regional last season on its way to a runner-up finish in the College World Series, and Virginia.

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Virginia (49-9) eliminated UCI in the Irvine Regional in 2009, a grouping (with Fresno State and a Stephen Strasburg-led San Diego State) that some called the Regional of Death.

UCI, making its sixth straight regionals appearance and its seventh postseason trip in the last eight seasons, will open Friday at 2 p.m. against Fresno State, which shared the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship, then won the WAC Tournament.

UCI is the No. 3 seed in the regional. UCLA is seeded No. 1, Fresno State No. 2 and USF No. 4.

UCLA, the Pac-10 champion guided by former UCI head man John Savage, meets USF in the other first-round clash Friday at 6 p.m. The double-elimination tournament could extend through Monday, should a seventh game be required.

Its one of only two regionals in which every team won at least a share of its regular-season conference crown. The other is the Austin Regional that includes Texas, Princeton, Kent State and Texas State.

"Let's go," said Hernandez, who was redshirting in 2009, when UCI defeated Fresno State in the opener of the Irvine Regional.

UCLA and UCI split their two regular-season meetings and the Anteaters took note that ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson predicted on the live broadcast unveiling the 64-team tournament field that UCLA would win the national title.

"That definitely gives us a little edge and fires us up," Hernandez said. "UCLA is a good team, but we're excited and we know we're going to compete with them."

UCI junior ace Matt Summers, who no-hit Long Beach State in his final regular-season start Friday after pitching a two-hit shutout on May 20 at UC Riverside, is also confident in his team's chances.

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