Breaking it down

UC-Irvine will bring one of the country's top pitching staffs to Baton Rouge this weekend for its Super Regional showdown with No. 2 ranked LSU. Pitching may be the Anteaters' strength but today we are going to break down Mike Gillespie's No. 8 ranked club.



UC Irvine has the label of being a team that plays small ball and comes to town averaging six runs a contest. The Anteaters manufacture runs in ways that are in stark contrast to what LSU fans have grown accustomed to this year. UCI leads the nation in sacrifice bunts (88) and is 31st in stolen bases (99).


One thing worth noting when looking at their stat sheet is that they average a little over three walks a game and finished fifth in the Big West Conference in that department which is kind of odd considering that LSU, which is known more for its power, is slightly ahead in that category.


Mike Gillespie’s club brings a .306 batting average into the weekend and out of its 586 hits on the year only 150 have been for extra bases, with only 35 going over the wall.


LSU, on the other hand, is hitting at a .305 clip on the year and out of the Tigers’ 691 hits, 249 have gone for more than a single. With the speed that they obviously have it is a little surprising that the Anteaters were not able to stretch more base hits into extra bases as they finished seventh in the conference in doubles (99) and fifth in triples (16).


Leading the way at the plate is shortstop Ben Orloff (.344, 17 2B), first baseman Jeff Cusick (.347, 26 RBI), outfielders Sean Madigan (.333) and Ollie Linton (.323, 35 RBI) and outfielder/catcher Francis Larson (320, 7 HR).


Orloff leads the team in doubles with 17 and Linton finished way ahead of the pack in the Big West with his 39 steals which also ranked seventh in the country. Keeping Linton close will be critical for LSU’s pitchers and Micah Gibbs will have his work cut out for him behind the plate because Linton was only caught stealing eight times all year.


In the Lincoln Regional, Madigan carried a big stick at the plate and finished 6-of-10 with a career-high five RBI in the championship game. He was one of three position players to make the all-tournament team joining Linton and Orloff.


Surprisingly, second baseman Casey Stevenson did not make the all-tournament team with his 7-for-9 performance over the weekend but he is obviously coming to Baton Rouge very hot at the plate.


The Anteaters are going to claw and scratch to get base runners on any way they can but they will not get much help from LSU if things hold true to form since the Tigers are 15th in the country at putting runners on with walks.


The Tigers’ pitching staff has been superb during the 23-game win streak, recording a 3.53 ERA in 217 innings of work with 68 walks and 202 strikeouts.


LSU’s staff is 26th in the nation in hits allowed over nine innings at eight a game so runs and base runners will be tough to come by if those stats stay the course.


If they do then that will not bode well for the Anteaters.





Anytime a team goes up against a pitching staff the quality of UC Irvine there has to be some concern but not nearly as much when you have won 23 games in a row and the entire team is hitting as well as LSU is.


The Anteaters bring in the second best team earned run average in the country at 2.88 along with three front-line pitchers that have very good stuff.


As a team, UCI ranks sixth in the country in allowing hits over nine innings at eight a game, ranks 17th in strikeouts per nine frames with eight, and is 19th in walks with just under three a game.


Leading the way is junior right-hander Scott Gorgen (11-3), who is one of the best in the country, and will get the call in game one.


The 5-10, 190-pounder is not overpowering rather he relies on a changeup that is widely considered one of the best in the game.


Gorgen’s 2.31 ERA is good for 22nd in America, and he is third in the country in hits allowed over nine innings (5.45) and seventh in strikeouts (115).


Gorgen is coming off one of his worst outings of the year, however, where he allowed six runs (all earned) on nine hits in a 9-7 win over Oral Roberts.


That was the first time all year that he had allowed more than four runs this season and it tied a career-high for runs allowed.


Oral Roberts hit .391 against Gorgen which is very uncharacteristic of the talented hurler as opponents are batting only .175 against him on the year.


Mike Gillespie switched things up in game two of the regional and threw left-hander Daniel Bibona (9-3) as opposed to his other big gun in Bryce Stowell (8-2).


The big gun description fits Stowell perfectly as the big 6-2, 205-pound right-hander, is ranked 21st in baseball America’s Top 50 sophomores in the country, and he was ranked No. 90 in the magazine’s pre-season rankings for top draft prospects at the collegiate level.


He was magnificent in the Lincoln Regional as he shut the door completely on Oral Roberts by pitching seven and two-third innings of shutout ball and allowed only five hits while fanning 13 batters and walking none. For his efforts he was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.


Prior to last weekend’s showing, though, Stowell had been roughed up in his two previous starts by allowing 16 hits and 11 earned runs over 12 innings of work with three homers allowed.


If UC Irvine would win game one then Bibona could get the start on Sunday so Gillespie could save Stowell for the championship.


In Bibona, the Tigers would face someone who throws a lot of strikes which is evident by the number of walks he has served up on the year (20).


In his last four starts, the 5-11, 160-pound southpaw has been sharp as he has thrown 28.1 innings and allowed 27 hits and six earned runs with 23 strikeouts and five walks.


Included in those last four outings was his career-best eight inning performance where he held No. 13 Nebraska to a pair of runs on only four hits.


In Lincoln, Bibona gave the ball to one of the nation’s top closers in Eric Pettis, who logged his 17th save of the season which is only one behind the NCAA leader.


One thing UCI will see this weekend that it hasn’t seen much this year is a team that can hit the ball with authority from one through nine in the order.


If the Tigers continue to hit the ball like they have been during their 23-game win streak then things could get ugly in a hurry because LSU is hitting .324 during the past 23 games with 65 doubles, eight triples and 42 homers.


However, if the UCI pitchers get ahead in the count and keep the Tigers off-balance then this series will be a lot more interesting than LSU fans would like.





On the year, UC Irvine finished third in the Big West Conference with a .969 fielding percentage which also put them 57th in the country.


If the average baseball fan is trying to determine whether or not that is good, well it is but not as good as the .971 percentage LSU brings in which puts the tigers at No. 25 in the country.


Aaron Lowenstein is one of the best catchers in the conference at throwing runners out trying to steal as he has gunned down 29 out of 55 on the year.


UCI played excellent defense last weekend with only one error committed in the regional and will need to play solid in the field again to keep LSU off the base path.





UC Irvine Head Coach Mike Gillespie is certainly no stranger to the big game in his 21 seasons on the collegiate level.


He spent 20 seasons at USC where he took the Trojans to post-season play 15 times which included four trips to Omaha and one national title in 1998.


In Gillespie’s 15 post-season appearances with the Trojans, one took him to Alex Box Stadium back in 1994 where his USC squad fell to LSU twice thus sending the Tigers to the College World Series.


Over the course of his illustrious career, Gillespie has compiled a record of 804-489-2 with a winning percentage of .621.





Looking at the numbers from both teams one comes to a quick conclusion that something has to give this weekend.


The strength of the Anteaters is their pitching which will face what is arguably one of the hottest hitting teams in the country in LSU.


UCI has allowed 28 homers on the year and LSU has hit 88 balls out of the park.


The Anteaters have held their opponents to a .249 batting average over the course of the year and the Tigers are hitting at a .324 clip over the past seven weeks and have hit 42 of their 88 homers during that span.


UCI is going to try and manufacture runs by getting guys on then trying to steal and LSU is ranked 26th in the country in hits allowed, 18th at issuing walks, and has one of the better defensive catchers in the SEC in Micah Gibbs.


LSU obviously has the home field advantage but the Anteaters faced that obstacle last weekend.


For the UCI/Nebraska game last Saturday there were 8,646 fans decked out primarily in red.


This weekend there could be close to that same amount at Alex Box but they will be sporting their gold and creating an atmosphere that Nebraska could only dream of.


The question is will that atmosphere be enough to carry the Tigers to Omaha?


The answer is no it isn’t.


But when you add Paul Mainieri and this young group of Tigers to the equation then the end result could very well be another trip to college baseball’s Mecca of Rosenblatt Stadium. 


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