Throughout his team's Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament, UC Irvine Coach Mike Gillespie has maintained that as long as his pitchers continue to do what they have done all season, the Anteaters will have a chance to win games.
After beating yet another perennial powerhouse to get UC Irvine into its first College World Series since 2007, it's time to start believing him.
The Anteaters swept host Oklahoma State in a best-of-three super regional series in Stillwater over the weekend, putting to rest any doubt of their resume after having lost eight of nine games to close out the regular season.
The sweep of the Cowboys came a week after the Anteaters beat No. 1 overall seed Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore.
“In those eight losses, we were on the other side of this type of game five times,” Gillespie said. “A loss is a loss, but the fact is, we did play well and we really pitched well. So the fact that we've done well [since] it's really not as big a shock as it looks like, because our pitching has really given us chances time after time.”
The Anteaters were forced to rest senior ace Andrew Morales on Friday after he pitched twice in the Corvallis regional, so they went with Elliot Surrey. The left-handed sophomore gave up two unearned runs in seven innings, and the bullpen held off a late Cowboys rally to win, 8-4.
Saturday was the Morales show.
UC Irvine scored only one run, in the first inning, but it didn't matter. That's all that was needed by Morales, a senior right-hander who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the major leagues amateur draft last week.
Morales pitched his third shutout of the season, giving up five hits and striking out five batters.
“In crunch time, people got to step up and during this tournament, we have,” said Jonathan Munoz, who drove in Saturday's run with a double.
“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum rolling into Omaha.”
Now, they are headed to Nebraska for the double-elimination championship series.
The Anteaters play Texas at noon PDT on Saturday.
Associated Press contributed to this report.