By Curt McKeever, Special to ESPN.com
OMAHA, Neb. -- It took UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton 96 baseballs and 5 hours and 40 minutes to play their elimination game at the College World Series here Monday afternoon.
And shortly after the Anteaters beat their fellow Big West Conference member for the third time in four meetings this season -- on Bryan Petersen's two-out single to shallow center that let Cody Cipriano end the epic struggle with a too-easy trot in from third base -- Fullerton's veteran coach George Horton may have needed some extra tissues, as well.
You see, it's not easy -- win or lose -- to have to match wits with someone you once coached and then later spent eight seasons showing the ropes to before he went off to build his own college baseball power.
Horton's "reward" for those teachings was to have Dave Serrano's third Irvine club rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the longest game in CWS history.
"In defeat, this will be a day I remember for a long time," said Horton, who gave Serrano a hearty postgame hug and also wasn't too proud to shed some tears, not all of which contained sadness. "I told him I loved him -- and I do. And I told him to win the tournament."
Serrano's club has quite a bit of work yet ahead of it -- needing three straight victories, exactly -- to advance to the best-of-three championship series.
But if Monday's outcome was any indication, don't count out these Anteaters.
They sent Fullerton (38-25) to its first 0-2 showing at the CWS in nine appearances despite making six errors and stranding 16 runners.
Monday's Stats of the Day from ESPN Research
14 Number of pitches UCI's Cody Cipriano saw before hitting a home run in the seventh inning to tie the game.
1 North Carolina is the only team remaining in the College World Series that has not hit a home run yet.
10 It has been 10 years since we had a repeat champion (LSU).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Without Bud Selig to shut the game down, Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine both had to dig deep to throw 13 innings -- with their College World Series fate on the line. Both starters went six innings, which certainly helped, and both teams got big contributions from their bullpens.
But even though the game stretched to a College World Series record 5 hours and 40 minutes, the teams used fewer pitchers combined than North Carolina did in Sunday's game against Rice. (And that's not a typo -- Cal State Fullerton's pitchers issued just two walks in 13 innings.)