Summers to start opener

UC Irvine All-American candidate Matt Summers will be the starting pitcher when the Anteaters open NCAA Regional play Friday against Fresno State at 2 p.m., UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said Tuesday.

Gillespie said determining who would start subsequent games in the four-team, double-elimination Los Angeles Regional that also includes UCLA and San Francisco, would be decided later, based upon the opponent.

Summers, a junior right-hander who threw a no-hitter in his final regular-season start, was named Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year on Monday. He was 8-0 in his eight conference starts to complete the regular season 10-2. His earned-run average of 1.74 ranks No. 17 in the country.

Summers could face Fresno State senior right-hander Greg Gonzalez, who is 11-0 in 15 starts this season with a 1.43 ERA that ranks No. 7 nationally. The 5-foot- 11 Gonzalez, who was 8-2 as a junior after transferring from Skyline Community College, has allowed just 64 hits in 100 2/3 innings as a senior. He has 121 strikeouts and has walked 26 in 2011. Gonzales threw a no-hitter during his junior season.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Fresno State Coach Mike Batesole had not named a starter for Friday.

Summers has won his last four starts, during which he has allowed just 16 hits in 33 innings and posted an ERA of 0.82. He threw a two-hitter at UC Riverside on May 20 and has faced three over the combined minimum without allowing a runner to reach second base in consecutive complete games to close the regular season.

Gillespie said Fresno State's strong offensive reputation helped him elect to start Summers Friday, rather than save him for a potential meeting Saturday with UCLA.

Fresno State (40-14) shared the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title with Hawaii, then won the conference tournament to claim the WAC's automatic bid. Coach Mike Batesole's Bulldogs won the program's first NCAA title in 2008, but were eliminated in the Irvine regional in 2009, including an opening-round loss to UCI.

Junior outfielder Dusty Robinson leads a potent Fresno State offense with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs. He has 47 home runs in three collegiate seasons and is hitting .318 with 10 stolen bases in 2011.

Senior first baseman Jordan Ribera has eight home runs and 44 RBIs this season. He has 44 home runs in his college career, including a nation-leading 27 in 2010.

Senior infielder Danny Muno is another catalyst. He is hitting .340 with three homers, 49 RBIs and 13 steals.

Fresno State matches UCI's .299 team batting average and has eight players with at least 20 RBIs.

UCI (39-16) has nine players with at least 25 RBIs, led by senior left fielder Drew Hillman, who has driven in 47. Hillman, a former two-time All-American at Orange Coast College and a first-team all-conference performer this season, also leads the 'Eaters with four home runs and 19 extra-base hits.

The nine regulars in the UCI batting order have combined for 281 of the team's 299 RBIs, a staggering 94%.

That list includes junior designated hitter Jordan Leyland (36 RBIs), senior right fielder Sean Madigan (35) and junior center fielder Christian Ramirez (32).

Another offensive stalwart for UCI is senior third baseman and closer Brian Hernandez, the Big West Defensive Player of the Year who is hitting .354 with 29 RBIs and 44 runs. A first-team All-Big West performer the last two seasons, Hernandez's 81 hits lead the team.

On the mound, Hernandez has 12 saves, a 3-2 record and a 3.33 ERA.

Junior shortstop and leadoff man D.J. Crumlich leads the team with 49 runs, while junior first baseman Jordan Fox, who missed 11 games with a shoulder injury, is hitting a team-best .356.

Gillespie said sophomore left-hander Matt Whitehouse (3-0 with a 2.14 ERA) might be the choice to start the second game, particularly if UCI meets UCLA (33-22), which typically has had five left-handed hitters in its lineup.

Should UCI match up against USF (31-23) in the second game, Gillespie said he could go with Whitehouse, junior right-hander Crosby Slaught (7-2, 3.97 ERA), or freshman right-hander Andrew Thurman (3-3, 3.82).

UCI is making its sixth straight trip to the postseason. It won regionals in Texas and Nebraska in 2007 and 2008, respectively, and went on to the College World Series in 2007. The Anteaters have gone 2-2 in regionals the last two years, including last season at UCLA, when they were eliminated by the Bruins, who went on to a runner-up showing in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

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