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Super Regional Preview: UC Irvine

The Cowboys host their first Super Regional, and get to face another Big West team.

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With the Cowboys playing their third Super Regional and first ever in Stillwater, let’s take a closer look at the opponent.

Team Info

Location: Irvine, CA
Record: 38-23
Conference: Big West

About The Anteaters

Head coach Mike Gillespie leads a balanced squad into Stillwater for the Super Regional. Irvine averages 4.4 runs per game, so the strategy is to get a couple of runs on the board and let the pitching staff do the rest.

The MVP at the plate is first baseman Connor Spencer. He’s hitting .364/.453/.485 with 15 doubles and 43 RBIs, and also has seven stolen bases. Third baseman Taylor Sparks has five of the team’s 12 home runs, so power isn’t the way the Anteaters get it done.

This is also a top 20 pitching staff, sporting a 2.82 ERA and allowing just two walks per game. The staff is led by senior Andrew Morales, who is 10-2 with a 1.64 ERA in 17 starts this year. Morales also has 128 strikeouts in 120.2 innings. Closer Sam Moore has 23 saves in 31 appearances, with a 1.88 ERA to boot.

About The Program

The UC Irvine baseball program was established in 1970, playing in what would come to be known as Division II. The Anteaters won back-to-back national championships at that level, in 1973 and 1974. The team transitioned to Division I in 1978, but never made an NCAA Tournament appearance.

After the 1992 season, the program got a death sentence, but not from the NCAA. The school was forced to cut several sports due to state budget cuts, and baseball was among them. The program remained dormant until 2000, when a new stadium was announced. The team’s first game was played in 2002 after the completion of Anteater Ballpark.

Since the turn of the century, the Anteaters have made the NCAA Tournament eight times now, winning three Regionals and one Super Regional. The lone College World Series appearance was in 2007, when Irvine went 2-2 but lost to eventual champion Oregon State.

How They Got Here

The Anteaters finished third in the Big West Conference with a 15-9 record, one game better than OSU’s Regional opponent, Cal State Fullerton. That earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Irvine was the No. 3 seed in the Corvallis Regional, being drawn with UNLV, North Dakota State and the national top seed Oregon State. Irvine had little trouble with the Regional, going 3-1, including two wins against the Beavers to advance to its fourth Super Regional in program history.

The Anteaters used a balanced attack to get through the Corvallis Regional, averaging seven runs per game while maintaining a 2.57 ERA in four games. Seven players made the All-Regional team, including MVP Connor Spencer, who had six hits and five RBIs in the Regional.

All-Time Series

These two teams have met only once before, a 4-3 Cowboy win in 1979 in Gary Ward’s second year as head coach. The game was played in Las Vegas so this will be the Irvine’s first trip to Stillwater.

Fun Fact

When Gillespie took over, he started a yearly tradition of a Halloween scrimmage where the players dress up and play five innings. Where else will you see The Flash holding runners at first base, Tinkerbell calling balls and strikes, and Waldo hitting a walk off home run?

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