LSU 11 UC-Irvine 10 (11 innings)
Widely regarded as the top first day Regional match-up in the country, the battle between UC Irvine and LSU lived up to the billing and then some in a thrilling contest at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium. A back and forth contest filled with quality pitching at times, several tremendous defensive plays and excellent hitting finally came to an end after 11 innings and more than four hours of play with LSU on top, 11-10.
Trailing 7-3, Irvine cut into the lead with a pair of seventh inning runs. LSU got one back in the bottom half of the inning before the Anteaters added a pair in the eighth and ninth to take a 9-8 lead over the defending national champions. Then, things got nutty.
With two outs in the ninth, Irvine head coach Mike Gillespie decided to go with a four-man outfield and Blake Dean singled right through the vacated spot in the Anteaters’ infield. The next batter flied one to right, but a diving attempt at the ball went awry and the runner came all the way around from first to tie the game at nine apiece.
Francis Larson, the Irvine catcher who had hit two home runs earlier in the game, broke the deadlock in the tenth with a squeeze bunt of all things. The perfectly executed bunt put the Anteaters up a run and Eric Pettis got his second chance of the game to finish things up. Yet again, LSU made the first two outs of the innings, but a bout of wildness allowed them to load the bases. Then, little-used Trey Watkins hit a fly ball to right that carried and carried until falling on the warning track in right field to score the tying and winning runs for the Tigers.
UCLA 15 Kent State 1
As expected, the top-seeded Bruins had no trouble with the fourth-seeded Golden Flashes in a dominating 15-1 win, their first ever Regional win at home. The Bruins got strong pitching from Gerrit Cole, who struck out seven and walked one while limiting the heavy-hitting Golden Flashes to one hit in five scoreless innings. That excellent pitching combined with 15 hits to move the Bruins into the winner’s bracket of the Los Angeles Regional versus LSU on Saturday at 6 pm PDT.
A pair of first inning runs started the UCLA scoring, but it was the third and fourth innings that put the nail in Kent St.’s coffin. In both the third and fourth innings, UCLA put five runs on the board with three hits in each inning and a handful of walks and hit batsmen. It wasn’t until the ninth inning that Kent St. finally got on the scoreboard, but by then the outcome had been decided for long.
Five Bruins picked up multiple hits on the game, led by Chris Giovinazzo’s 2-5, three RBI, two run effort. Beau Amaral chipped in with a 2-3, two RBI, two run performance at the top of the Bruin lineup as the tournament’s sixth national seed looked very much the part in their preparations for the defending national champion Tigers on Saturday.