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UC-Irvine forces Game 3 with 6-4 win over Virginia

By: Greg Waters
For the second day in a row the Charlottesville Super Regional was delayed by rain but unlike Saturday when the rain seemed to give the Virginia Cavaliers a spark, it was Irvine that came back from the break with a purpose and a 6-4 win to tie the series at a game apiece.

Freshman Andrew Thurman (4-3) tossed four innings of solid baseball giving up a lone run on three hits while striking out four, leading UC-Irvine (43-17) to a win in game two of the Charlottesville Super Regional. Thurman entered the game follow a 4:18 rain delay taking over for starter Matt Whitehouse.

“I think the rain delay seemed to be what the doctor ordered along with the ballpark hamburgers that we ate on the way out,” quipped Irvine coach Mike Gillespie.

Neither starter made it beyond the seventh inning with UCI’s Matt Whitehouse not returning following the rain delay and Virginia’s Tyler Wilson giving way to Justin Thompson in the bottom of the seventh.

Whitehouse surrendered three runs, only one earned, on four hits, walking two, hitting a batter and fanning four. Wilson gave up just one run in six innings of work, walking one hitter while fanning six. Virginia was led offensively by shortstop Chris Taylor who went 2-for-3 and scoring a run and John Hicks who added a hit and two RBI.

Branden Kline (3-1) dropped his first game of the season allowing the game winning run in the bottom of the eighth.

The Anteater bats also came to life, ending a 14-inning super regional scoreless streak scoring a run in the sixth, two in the seventh and three in the eighth en route to a 6-4 win over Virginia (53-10). The loss was the Cavalier first of the post season ending UVa’s eight-game winning streak dating back to May 25 when the Cavaliers beat Wake Forest in their opening game of the ACC Tournament.

Irvine’s Drew Hillman was the offensive star breaking the scoreless streak in the bottom of the sixth inning with a tower home run over the ‘HooZone’ in left field. Hillman went 2-for-4, scoring two runs and adding an RBI. Second baseman Tommy Reyes also had a 2-for-4 day with a run and an RBI.

Virginia got the scoring started in the first with a single off UCI starter Matt Whitehouse. Taylor stole second and moved up 90 feet in the first, scoring on John Hicks sacrifice fly, his 56 RBI of the season.

The Cavaliers added a run in the third to push the lead to two. Keith Werman led-off being hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position on Taylor’s sacrifice bunt, moving up to third on John Barr’s ground out. Irvine third baseman Brain Hernandez made a diving stop on Hicks’ sharp ground ball but the Cavalier catcher beat out the throw for the infield RBI single.

Hicks again provided the scoring assist in the fifth inning plating Colin Harrington from third when his sharp ground ball was field by Hernandez but the throw to first was off-line.

That’s when the skies opened up.

Gillespie made the decision to come back from the break with the freshman Thurman and says he didn’t give it a second thought.

“It was an easy call,” affirmed Gillespie. “With the length of time and the fact that he (starter Matt Whitehouse) was up at 70 pitches it didn’t make sense to put him back out there. Obviously in a best-case scenario, if we were to be here for three games, we would like to have had Thurman start the third game. Nonetheless, we were down 3-0 and there isn’t going to be a tomorrow if we didn’t manage to come back today, so it was not a tough decision.”

The Anteaters finally broke through ending a 14-inning scoreless streak against the Cavs on Drew Hillman sixth home run of the season in the sixth inning.

In the bottom of the seventh Virginia went with Justin Thompson to replace Wilson. The junior hurler walked the lead-off hitter Christian Ramirez who scored on Tommy Reyes’ gap single and a fielding error by centerfielder Kenny Swab. Ronnie Shaeffer, the hero of the Los Angeles Regional singled to plate Reyes tying the score at three.

Swab says his miscue had nothing to do with the wet field conditions – he simply misplayed the ball.

“I just didn’t make a play on the ball to keep it in front of me,” said the senior outfielder. “I should have done that just to allow the runners not to score. It just went through me and you can’t let that happen.”

The Hoos responded in the top of the eighth as Jared King singled with two outs and scored on Swabs 17th double of the season.

With Virginia leading by one and a runner on second in the eighth, UVa coach Brian O’Connor made the decision to go to closer Branden Kline. That didn’t work out either.

Kline hit the first batter he faced and with one out and runners on the corners served up a hanging slider to designated hitter Jordan Leyland who laced a two-RBI double into a huge gap in left center giving the Anteaters their first lead of the series 6-4 and the final margin of victory.

“I offered a pitch up and [Leyland] hit it,” Kline stated. “I think it was a slider. I just left it up. You’ve just to learn from your mistakes and bounce back tomorrow with confidence and act like today never happened.”

Virginia will face the Anteaters tomorrow at 4:00 PM on ESPN2 with a trip to the CWS on the line. Irvine will send out Crosby Slaught (7-2, 3.97 ERA) while the Hoos will counter with Will Roberts (11-1, 1.61 ERA).