LOS ANGELES — LSU is no longer the equivalent of a four-letter word for the UC Irvine baseball program, which dispatched the defending national champion Tigers with a 4-3 victory in an elimination game of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional Sunday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The win propelled the No. 21-ranked Anteaters (39-20) into the first of two must-win showdowns against host UCLA later Sunday night. Should UCI beat UCLA Sunday, the two teams would play Monday at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to a Super Regional.
A loss Sunday night would end UCI’s season and send the Bruins (45-13) onward.
The UCI victory Sunday also exorcised a tormented recent history against No. 23-ranked LSU (41-22), which had twice rallied in its final at-bat to hand UCI crushing defeats.
The first gut-wrenching loss to LSU came in the opening round of this regional Friday, an 11-10 setback in 11 innings. Another crucial dramatic loss came in the 2008 Super Regional at LSU.
Junior left fielder Drew Hillman belted a home run that proved to be the eventual game-winner, as freshman starter Evan Brock pitched into the seventh to earn his sixth win in 10 decisions.
Brock allowed seven hits, struck out seven and walked none for a second straight start. He left with the Anteaters up, 4-2, but was charged with three runs, all earned.
Kyle Necke pitched a scoreless inning of relief, which ended when he started a 1-6-3 double play that negated an LSU threat.
Sophomore Nick Hoover pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, to earn his first career save.
Hillman went three for three to pace the ’Eaters’ seven-hit attack. He also scored twice.
Sophomore Jordan Leyland had an RBI single in the second inning to open the scoring for the designated home team.
Senior first baseman Jeff Cusick and senior catcher Francis Larson singled to open the second for the Anteaters.
After Larson and Hillman singled to open the UCI fourth, Leyland walked to load the bases. Consecutive groundouts by junior Ryan Fisher and sophomore D.J. Crumlich followed to give UCI a 3-0 lead.
LSU scored one in the sixth and two in the seventh, but never surmounted UCI’s lead.
UC Irvine 4, LSU 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
LSU 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 — 3 10 7
UCI 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 X — 4 7 0
Alsup Bertuccini (5), Ott (7) and Gibbs; Brock, Necke (7), Whitehouse (8), Hoover (8) and Larson. W – Brock, 6-4. L – Alsup, 5-1. Sv – Hoover (1). 2B – Gibbs (LSU), Landry (LSU), Gaudet (LSU), Edward (LSU), Hillman (LSU). HR – Dean (LSU), Hillman (UCI).