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Anteaters losing ground

UCI drops deciding game to Cal State Fullerton, now faces uphill battle to earn seventh straight trip to NCAA postseason.

April 16, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine shortstop D.J. Crumlich, left, throws to first to complete a double play in Saturday's series-opening win against Cal State Fullerton and Richy Pedroza (6).
UC Irvine shortstop D.J. Crumlich, left, throws to first… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

IRVINE — There are 24 games remaining in the UC Irvine baseball team's regular season. But after dropping the rubber game of a three-game Big West Conference series against Cal State Fullerton on Sunday, the Anteaters, for the first time since missing the postseason in 2005, may simply be playing out the string.

"We're all disappointed, of course we are," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said after a 5-3 setback to the No. 12-ranked Titans (23-12, 7-2 in conference), who are tied with Long Beach State atop the conference standings after three weeks of Big West play. "[Sunday] was a critical game. Now, the next one is more important. We all know the numbers and we know who we've played and who is ahead of us. In our case, we've just got to be the cliche: we've got to keep grinding and do what we can possibly do."

Short of 22 wins in the final 24 contests, which would give the Anteaters (18-14, 4-5) a 40-win regular-season, or climbing all the way back to claim the conference title that would create an automatic berth as one of 64 NCAA Regional participants, there appears little UCI can do to sway influence its way when it comes to an at-large berth.

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According to the NCAA website, UCI begins this week with a ratings percentage index of 68. Outside two dates against UCLA (an RPI of 7) and one with San Diego (19), UCI plays only one team with an RPI below 100 (Long Beach State, which plays host to the 'Eaters on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Blair Field, has an RPI of 70).

So, barring that conference crown, even a monumental streak of victories figures to leave UCI even lower on the RPI rankings than it is now. And, without an RPI at least in the mid-60s, an at-large NCAA berth is more than a long shot.

UCI's offensive shortcomings were exposed by the Titans Sunday, as the hosts managed just three hits against four pitchers. Freshman starter Graham Wiest allowed three runs, two earned, in 51/3 innings, before relievers Dave Birosak, Willie Kuhl and Michael Lorenzen, who notched his 12th save, combined for 32/3 innings of hitless relief.

"Well, we are what we are and its a little tough to sugarcoat what we are offensively," Gillespie said. We've been in [20] of these [games decided by three or fewer runs], a few of which we've won [UCI is 12-8 in those games, including a 6-5 mark in one-run contests and a 4-1 record in three-run verdicts]. And we've had lots of games in which we've gotten [three to seven] hits. That's what we are."

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