UCI in prime position

LOS ANGELES — Three All-Americans and a projected No. 1 pick in this week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft had already taken the mound in the NCAA Los Angeles baseball regional at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium.

But UC Irvine sophomore Matt Whitehouse showed in the Anteaters' 4-3 victory against San Francisco in a winner's-bracket game Saturday night that he has the stuff of which the best in this regional are made.

Whitehouse held the Dons to two earned runs on four hits in 8 1/3 innings to improve to 4-0 and move UCI (41-16) within one win of advancing to the super regional.

The Anteaters face the winner of Sunday's UCLA-San Francisco afternoon elimination game at 6 p.m. Sunday   for the chance to claim the title of the four-team, double-elimination regional.

Should UCI lose Sunday, it would play again Monday for the title.

A victory Sunday or Monday would give UCI its third trip to super regional in five seasons. The 'Eaters won the Round Rock Regional in Texas in 2007 on their way to the College World Series. They won the Lincoln Regional in Nebraska in 2008, then fell at LSU in the super regional.

UCI was eliminated in regionals the last two seasons, including last year's Los Angeles Regional.

"Clearly we love being the team that is 2-0," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said. "Not as much as we'd prefer to be the team 3-0, but this is the position that every team wants to be in. We know there is a lot of work to be done and we have to stay after it."

Whitehouse got after it from the start Saturday, striking out two in the first inning after the Dons (32-24) opened with a double and a sacrifice bunt to put Pete Lavin on third base.

Just 11 starts after working his way out of a season-long stay in the pitching coach's doghouse in 2010, Whitehouse lowered his earned-run average to 2.11 this season. He was sent out in the ninth to flirt with his first complete game, but after a wild pitch on a strikeout allowed a runner to reach with one out, he hit Adam Clear with a pitch and was lifted having thrown 126 pitches.

Whitehouse, who has seen three would-be wins lost by the bullpen since May 7, almost saw a repeat performance.

An errant throw on a fielder's choice that produced the second out allowed a run to score and pinch-hitter Ted LeMasters laced an RBI double to left-center field off senior closer Brian Hernandez to pull the Dons within 4-3

Sophomore Jimmy Litchfield replaced Hernandez and struck out Mason Morioka to end the game and post his third save.

UCI junior shortstop D.J. Crumlich drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly in the third inning and senior left fielder Drew Hillman drilled a first-pitch slider for a two-run homer to left-center field after Hernandez had singled in a run against USF starter Matt Hiserman.

It was Hillman's fifth homer of the season, which leads the team, as do his 50 RBIs. Hillman hit two homers in last season's Los Angeles Regional to earn all-tournament honors.

UCI junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer was two for three to pace UCI's seven-hit attack as Hiserman fell to 6-4, despite going the distance.

"[Whitehouse] has made a quantum leap from last year to this year," Gillespie said. "He has been one of the absolute keys to the success that we've had."


NCAA Regional

UC Irvine 4, San Francisco 3


UCI 001 003 000 – 4 7 2

USF 000 001 002 – 3 5 0

Whitehouse, Hernandez (9) , Litchfield (9) and Shaeffer; Hiserman and Morioka. W

– Whitehouse, 4-0. L – Hiserman, 6-4. Sv – Litchfield (3). 2B – Lavin (USF) 2,

LeMasters (USF). HR – Hillman (UCI).

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