May 29, 2009
IRVINE, Calif. - "That was a heck of a college baseball game."
That quote from Bulldog head baseball coach Mike Batesole said it all.
The Dogs dropped a hard-fought 4-2 game to No. 1 UC Irvine in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament at Anteater Ball Park on the UIC campus.
An electric atmosphere for the Irvine Regional was present for two sellout games Friday in a regional that featured two teams ranked in the Top 10 of the nation, the NCAA player of the year, and the defending national champion Fresno State Bulldogs.
"That's what you expect in an NCAA tournament game," Batesole added. "You saw excellent pitching and great defense all over the field. It was just a heck of a game."
It was the first time UC Irvine has hosted an NCAA tournament regional and was the second straight year the Dogs competed in a regional ranked as the nation's most difficult.
Bulldog head coach Mike Batesole, the reigning National Coach of the Year, called on a freshman Derek Benny as the starting pitcher. Benny came into the game with a 4-3 record and a 5.03 ERA. Benny was coming off an impressive WAC Tournament appearance, in which he threw a complete game against WAC regular season champion San Jose State in a 6-3 Bulldog win. He was named to the WAC All-Tournament team.
The Anteaters, ranked No. 1 in all of the major polls, had their top pitcher, All-American Daniel Bibona, who came into the game with a record of 11-1 and a 2.65 ERA. Bibona was the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Bibona was perfect through the first three innings, not allowing a base runner in scoreless game.
That ended in the top of the fourth inning when Fresno State's freshman Dusty Robinson got the first hit of the game with a towering home run over the scoreboard in left field off a Bibona fastball to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
It was his 15th homerun of the season, and just the 27th homerun hit at Anteater Ball Park this season. Robinson was a first-team All-WAC selection as an outfielder.
The Anteaters answered in the bottom of the fourth inning with four runs, two coming on a two-out 2-run double by Jordan Fox.
The Dogs had two hit in the top of the fifth inning, the second leading to their second run.
Johnson added his second double of the game and fifth of the season in the seventh inning but was left stranded on second base.
Freshman Josh Poytress replaced Benny in the seventh inning. Benny allowed just five hits while getting three strikeouts and walking one.
"He pitched an outstanding game," said Batesole. "For a freshman, in that environment with that kind of pressure against the best team in the country, that was just an outstanding performance. He's going to be something special before it's said and done. I'm really proud of all of our freshmen. They have been a big part of our success this year and getting them in this regional against this competition in this environment where they can feel it and touch it is going to help us down the road."
After retiring two batters in the inning, Zac Bischoff made his first NCAA tournament appearance and got the next Anteater to fly out to retire the side.
In the eighth inning, the Dogs lead-off batter Robinson drew a walk and stole second base. With one out, Bibona was replaced. He was masterful, setting a career-high with 13 strikeouts.
The Dogs will take on San Diego State, coached by former Major League all-star Tony Gwynn, at 4 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. Gwynn's brother, Chris, and Batesole were Minor League teammates in the Dodger's system.
No. 7 Virginia 5, San Diego State 1
It was unfortunate that San Diego State's stellar pitcher Stephen Strasburg's only NCAA tournament appearance ended with his only loss on the season. ACC champion Virginia, ranked No. 7 in the nation, beat the Aztecs 5-1. Strasburg, projected as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming Major League Draft, struck-out 15 batters and didn't walk any but gave up a first inning home run and two runs in the first two innings and which proved to be enough for the Cavs, who advanced to the second round of the winners bracket game Saturday at 8 p.m.
2009 Irvine Regional Results/Schedule
Friday, May 29
No. 7 Virginia 5, San Diego State 1
No. 1 UC Irvine 4, Fresno State 2,
Saturday, May 30
San Diego State vs. Fresno State, 4 p.m. .
No. 7 Virginia vs. No. 1 UC Irvine, 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 31
Game 5, 4 p.m. .
Game 6, 8 p.m. .
Monday, June 1
Game 7 (if necessary), 8 p.m.
"Join the State - Fresno State!" - The Fresno State baseball team continues play at the 2009 NCAA tournament at the Irvine Regional. The Fresno State games will be broadcast live in the Valley on KMJ Radio 580 AM and on ESPNU. Follow gobulldogs.com for further updates.
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