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June 20, 2007

Eaters prevail in dramatic fashion

  • Talk about the College World Series in the Clubhouse

    OMAHA, Neb. - One of the greatest aspects of the College World Series being in Omaha is that the locals become fans of one or two teams in the field of eight. Last year it was Oregon State, but this year it appears to be UC Irvine.

    The Anteaters gave the locals more reasons to root for them Tuesday night.

    Thanks to an Ollie Linton walk-off single to right field, the Anteaters defeated Arizona State 8-7 in 10 innings.

    Immediately following the hit, thousands of fans inside Rosenblatt Stadium began to chant Linton's name in unison.

    It was a moment worth remembering for the Anteaters.

    "I just got energy from the dugout and crowd and pulled it together at the plate," Linton said. "I didn't realize so many people were chanting my name. It was pretty cool."

    Linton also addressed his plate approach on the game-winning hit.

    "Before I got to the plate, coach told me I was going to be the guy," he said. "I tried to get a pitch up in the zone. As a result, he left one of his curveballs up in the zone and I was able to get it through."

    Linton's game-winning hit culminated one of the most exciting games in recent CWS history, which was played in front of the second-largest crowd ever.

    Even after the fact, UC Irvine coach Dave Serrano still can't believe it.

    "I don't know how to describe this game," a shocked Serrano said. "I guess the best way to put it is that our guys don't want to take their uniforms off."

    While the Anteaters finished the night on the winning side of the ledger, things didn't go their way until late in the game.

    Arizona State carried a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but imploded with the Anteaters scoring their first run of the inning on a hit-by-pitch. Veteran second baseman Cody Cipriano then singled up the middle to score another run, while outfielder Matt Morris hit a two-RBI double to right-center to tie the game at 7-7.

    The four-run deficit in the eighth didn't discourage the Anteaters.

    "Even though it was devastating to be down 7-3 in the eighth inning, there wasn't a single player in our dugout that thought we were going to lose," Serrano said. "My son looked at me in the dugout and said that something special was about to happen."

    Though Linton's hit in the bottom of the 10th inning won the game, the Anteaters received a clutch pitching performance from right-hander Scott Gorgen.

    It was sweet redemption for Gorgen, who allowed five runs on eight hits in seven innings against the Sun Devils in their CWS opener.

    "That was me pitching like Scott Gorgen," the sophomore said. "I knew from the time I went in there that we had the game in the bag. That was a true team out there."

    With the win, the Anteaters became the first team in College World Series history to win extra-inning games on consecutive days.

    The Anteaters have now eliminated Texas, Wichita State, Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State. Not a bad list of victims for a program that didn't have baseball until recently.

    "I thought about the fact that we knocked those teams off while I was in the hotel lobby earlier today," Serrano said. "Perhaps Oregon State is next on the list. This just goes to show that the biggest and strongest don't always win."

    Arizona State's season comes to surprising end

    When Vanderbilt was knocked out of the Nashville Regional a few weeks ago, Arizona State and Rice became the favorites to win the College World Series.

    The Owls had the pitching, while the Sun Devils had the hitting.

    Now Arizona State has nothing, thanks to a late-inning rally by UC Irvine.

    "As a coach, this is always the worst day," Arizona State coach Pat Murphy said. "The season is over and you're not the national champion."

    After dropping a tough decision to Oregon State last night, the Sun Devils felt that they'd come out with fire in Tuesday's game against the Anteaters.

    The Devils took a 7-3 lead into the eighth inning, but folded with freshman reliever Jason Jarvis on the mound. The usually consistent Jarvis allowed four runs on just two hits in an inning of work. He also walked three batters.

    In more ways than one, it was just one of those days for the Devils.

    "Jarvis has been unbelievable this season and has always gotten out of jams," Murphy said. "It was an uncharacteristic outing by Jarvis, but as a whole, I thought our pitching depth was exposed this week."

    While Jarvis' relief performance was a sore spot for the Devils, the most glaring stat stemming from their stint at the College World Series featured All-American first baseman Brett Wallace and designated hitter Kiel Roling.

    Wallace and Roling finished the CWS a combined 0-for-20 with eight strikeouts.

    "Brett struggled and had a tough series," Murphy said. "But this is going to be a good learning experience for him and the rest of the team."

    Murphy points to lack of experience and relying too much on the offense as the main issues this year's team faced in Omaha.

    "We lived and died by our offense this season and that hurt us this week," he said. "I also think a lack of maturity and experience took its toll in this tournament."

    Just minutes after the final out of their season was recorded, the Sun Devils were already looking forward to next season.

    "I'm excited about what the younger guys can do next season," Arizona State shortstop Andrew Romine said. "That's the only thing going through my head right now."


    Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at kendall@rivals.com.



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