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UC Irvine weathers monsoon, two deficits to force a Game 3

6/12/2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie never hesitated to give Andrew Thurman the ball with his team trailing 3-0 and just 4½ innings from its season being over.

The freshman showed why Sunday, taking over after a 4-hour, 18-minute rain delay and blanking top-seeded Virginia on three hits over the final four innings as the Anteaters rallied for a 6-4 victory, forcing a third game Monday in the Charlottesville Super Regional for a spot in the College World Series.

"It wouldn't have been a shock to see a guy in that situation crack," Gillespie said about a freshman bearing the weight of his team's season on his back in a win-or-go-home situation.

But, he added, Thurman pitched in a lot of big games during his high school career in California, and has "uncommon poise and experience that belie his years."

And because the Anteaters finally came through with some clutch hits, UC Irvine can end the Cavaliers' magical season with one more victory at Davenport Field.

Thurman, who Gillespie said would have been his starting pitcher in the decisive game had he not used him Sunday, struck out four and walked none.

The Anteaters' bats also came alive as they scored all six runs with him in the game, highlighted by Jordan Leyland's two-run double to left-center field with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning that gave UC Irvine a 5-4 lead. The hit came off Virginia closer Branden Kline, who had 17 saves, and just after Virginia had gone ahead 4-3 in the top of the inning.

Leyland said he was looking for a slider, and Kline didn't get it down like he wanted.

"I left it up and he took advantage," Kline said after his first loss of the season.

UC Irvine, which went back to its hotel to relax after a monsoon-like storm blew through, making it obvious the game would not resume for hours, thought the long delay actually helped.

"It kind of seemed like halftime of a basketball game," Drew Hillman said, adding that he thinks the pressure has been on Virginia all weekend, and will likely be ramped up now.

"They're the one supposed to win," he said, as the No. 1 national seed.

The Cavaliers were supposed to win last year, too, but let Oklahoma take them to a third game, too, and lost 11-0, a bitter ending to one of the best seasons in the school's history.

Until this one.

Virginia's victory total is a school record, and some Cavaliers have talked about how seeing the Sooners dogpile on their field last year on the way to the College World Series stings.

"I know that that sticks in our guys' side," O'Connor said.

UC Irvine (43-17) overcame deficits of 3-0 and 4-3, the latter with a three-run rally in the eighth. The Anteaters' rally started with one out when Hillman doubled. Virginia coach Brian O'Connor summoned Kline from the bullpen, and he hit Jordan Fox with his first pitch.

A fly ball to right allowed Hillman to tag and take third, and Fox stole second without a throw, setting the stage for Leyland's double into a huge gap in left-center field. Tommy Reyes followed with a single to right, scoring Leyland, and was thrown out trying for second.

Two harmless fly balls and a strikeout in the ninth forced game three Monday at 4 p.m.

The Cavaliers (53-10) seemed to have regained control after blowing a 3-0 lead.

Kenny Swab, whose mistake in centerfield allowed the Anteaters to score twice in the seventh to get even, atoned in the eighth. With Jared King running from first, Swab hit a slicing line drive to right. Sean Madigan ran over to field the ball and slipped as he bent over on the soaked field, allowing King to come all the way around as Swab continued on to second.

That made it 4-3, and it was up to the Cavaliers' bullpen.

Virginia starter Tyler Wilson, who threw 41 pitches in four innings before the delay, came back and worked two more innings. He had retired five straight when Hillman hit a 1-2 pitch over the bleachers in left field, breaking the Anteaters' scoreless string at 14 2/3 innings.

The hit "changed the mentality in the dugout. Everybody got electrified," Gillespie said.

Justin Thompson came on to start the next inning, walked Christian Ramirez leading off and allowed a one-out single to center by Reyes. The ball bounced just in front of Swab, then skipped past him as Ramirez came around to score and Reyes took second. He scored when Ronnie Schaeffer, the next batter, lined a single to center, pulling UC Irvine even at 3-all.

Virginia took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with help from the Anteaters.

Chris Taylor singled to lead off, and took off for second when Matt Whitehouse's pitch to John Barr bounced in the dirt. Catcher Schaeffer's late throw went into centerfield, with Taylor continuing to third. He scored on John Hicks' sacrifice fly to left field.

Hicks also produced the other two runs, singling home Keith Werman in the third after Werman was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second, and hitting a two-out grounder to third in the fifth that Brian Hernandez threw in the dirt to first as Colin Harrington came home.