Every time, UC Irvine found a way to escape.
The Anteaters scored one run, on a bases-loaded grounder in the eighth that Noah Krol nearly fielded, and that was enough to take a ton of momentum in this best-of-3 super regional. UC Irvine won 1-0 today at Eck Stadium, and the Shockers are left shaking their heads.
The Anteaters (44-15-1) can win the super regional and advance to the College World Series with a victory over WSU (53-21) at noon Sunday.
There was not much offense through five scoreless innings. The Shockers had one hit in that span _ Conor Gillaspie’s second-inning single up the middle _ but Irvine starter Scott Gorgen had faced the minimum through four.
In the fifth, WSU’s Josh Workman drew a two-out walk and stole second base, but Tyler Hill grounded out to the first baseman.
The Anteaters’ best threat came in the first inning when Taylor Holiday led off with a single, moved to second on a bunt and stole third base. But Shockers starter Aaron Shafer struck out Cody Cipriano and induced a lazy fly ball from Matt Morris.
Shafer allowed hits in the third and fourth inning _ including a double by Holiday _ but started getting stronger in the middle innings. After Morris’ fourth-inning single, Shafer retired the next nine batters.
Defense played a part on Shafer’s success, specifically Gillaspie’s second inning at third base. The leadoff batter, Aaron Lowenstein, hit a short chopper that Gillaspie had to charge on a full sprint and then make a strong throw. The next batter, Tyler Vaughn, hit a one-hop rocket to Gillaspie’s left. He made an all-out dive and the ball smacked into his glove as he bounced off the artificial turf. Gillaspie popped up and threw out Vaughn.
WSU’s bats came to life in the sixth inning. Dusty Coleman hit a one-out single and tried to take second base on a hit-and-run with Andy Dirks at the plate. But the Anteaters pitched out and threw out Coleman.
That hurt because Dirks followed with a single to left field. He moved to third on Derek Schermerhorn’s single through the left side. When Damon Sublett drew a five-pitch walk, the bases were loaded for Matt Brown. After two leave-his-shoes swings to make the count 0-2, Brown took two balls before striking out much to the big crowd’s dismay.
The Anteaters had their chance in the top of the seventh. Bryan Peterson drew a one-out walk and moved to third base on Sean Madigan’s hit-and-run single just over Sublett at second base.
Irvine then tried its small-ball tactics, having Ollie Linton lay down a one-strike bunt. Shafer fielded the ball and faked a hard throw to first, which drew Peterson down the line. The Shockers caught him in a run-down for the second out.
Facing Lowenstein, Shafer threw a full-count breaking ball that he thought was strike three. When he didn’t get the call, Shafer stared at the umpire from off the mound. Home plate umpire Danny Mascorro told WSU coach Gene Stephenson to hold down his complaining. As those two talked from a distance, third base umpire Kevin Daugherty ejected pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, who didn’t go quietly.
After Kemnitz had his say and the other umpires were satisfied he had left the dugout, Vaughn flew out to center field to end the inning. A fired-up Shafer bulled his way through teammates and he yelled then fired his glove into the dugout.
The Shockers got a hit-and-run call to work in the seventh, and it appeared it could finally lead to a run. Josh Workman hit a one-out single up the middle and was stealing second when Tyler Hill grounded a single through the big hole on the right side of the infield. That gave the Shockers runners on first and third with one out.
But Tyler Weber hit a line drive right at Orloff, Irvine’s shortstop. Orloff then threw to third base to double off Workman.
Wichita State turned to reliever Andy Womack in the eighth. After getting two quick outs, Womack ran into trouble. Two walks sandwiched around a Matt Morris single loaded the bases before Stephenson Womack for Krol.
His first pitch was hit by Madigan right back at Krol. The ball popped out of his glove and flew to nearly the third-base line. By the time Krol caught up with it, he had no play and Irvine led 1-0.
WSU again had a chance to score in the eighth. Coleman led off with a single through the infield’s left side, his third sharply hit ball of the game. Dirks tried to sacrifice Coleman to second but popped the bunt foul.
That worked out for the Shockers as Gorgan then threw three straight balls to walk Dirks. Schermerhorn then tried to bunt, but Gorgan fielded it and threw out Coleman at third base.
Sublett then grounded to second base, starting an inning-ending double play.