UC Irvine moved into the driver's seat at the L.A. Regional with a 4-3 victory over San Francisco in a second-round game of the NCAA baseball playoffs Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The No. 3-seeded Anteaters (41-16) now await the winner of the elimination game between No. 1 UCLA and No. 4 USF. Those teams meet at 2 p.m. Sunday and the winner plays Irvine at 6 p.m. Another victory for Irvine would send the Anteaters to the Super Regionals for the first time since 2008.
"Clearly we love being the team that’s 2-0," Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said. "We prefer to be the team that’s 2-0, not as much as we’d like to be the team 3-0. This is the position that every team wants to be in, so that’s a good thing for us. We trust that all of us know that there’s lots of work to be done so we have to stay after it."
Irvine pitcher Matt Whitehouse (4-0) held San Francisco in check, giving up two runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. San Francisco rallied with two runs in the ninth, but relievers Brian Hernandez and Jimmy Litchfield got the final two outs. Litchfield struck out San Francisco catcher Mason Morioka to end the game and picked up his third save of the season.
Irvine left fielder Drew Hillman provided the big blow, knocking a slider over the left field fence for a two-out, two-run home run in the sixth inning that gave Irvine a 4-0 lead.
San Francisco pitcher Matt Hiserman (6-4) took the loss despite a 98-pitch, complete game. He gave up seven hits and four runs with one walk and a strikeout, but made the crucial mistake to Hillman.
"I left a slider over the middle of the plate," he said. "I thought it was a good pitch, not a good location."