UC Irvine Sends Texas to Losers Bracket

National No. 4 seed Texas is in danger of being ousted from its own Regional for the second straight year after UC Irvine topped the Horns, 3-1, Saturday in the Round Rock Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

Now, Texas faces a 12 p.m. elimination game Sunday against Wake Forest. The Horns would then have to beat the Anteaters, ranked No. 9 in the latest Baseball America poll, Sunday evening and again Monday afternoon to advance to the Super Regional.

Yet, Saturday's adversity bears little resemblance to the 2006 Austin Regional when Texas fell to Stanford and North Carolina State in its own yard, players and coaches insist. Instead, Texas is taking the approach that its hard-fought setback is reminiscent of battling out of the Losers Bracket at both the Regional and Super Regional two seasons ago en route to the 2005 national championship.

"I definitely think there is a different feel than last year," said Bradley Suttle, whose solo shot in the third inning represented Texas' only run. "I think we're going to come out and pitch really well. We have a better offense than we did last year. We're going to have to come out and do what we've been doing all year."

Texas coach Augie Garrido quickly added: "The difference is in attitude. This team has a different attitude and a different makeup than last year's team."

First-Team All-Big West RHP Scott Gorgen was masterful in going the distance for Irvine, scattering five hits and fanning two. He kept Texas batters off-balance typically by following his fast ball with a change-up.

"He made it look easy," Garrido said.

Starter Adrian Alaniz fanned seven, but yielded three runs on six hits in six and two-thirds innings to see his record fall to 12-3.

"We were faced with this situation in 2005 and we had some guys come up big for us," Alaniz said. "It's not like we haven't been in this spot before. If we can battle through this and stay mentally and physically positive, this can be a blessing in disguise for us."

Irvine batters accounted for seven hits while Suttle was responsible for two of Texas' five hits. Even though the Horns were guilty of three fielding errors, Garrido commented: "We played a better game tonight than last night. We won last night but lost tonight. Hats off to Irvine."

The crowd of 9,256 was the largest ever to attend a Regional session hosted by Texas, eclipsing the previous night's record by 26.

The Anteaters drew first blood in the opening frame when lead-off batter Taylor Holiday tripled to center field and then scored on Ben Orloff's RBI single. The Horns stranded runners at the corners after Ollie Linton's highlight reel snag of Russell Moldenhauer's towering shot in deep right-center. The Horns also left runners at the corners during their next at-bat, unable to cash in on a Nick Peoples' single, a Chais Fuller's sacrifice bunt and a Travis Tucker walk.

UC Irvine tacked on another run in the top of third. Holiday reached on Fuller's throwing error, was sacrificed over to second and advanced to third on a Cody Cipriano single. Holiday scored on a Matt Morris sacrifice bunt to make it a 2-0 ballgame. But the Horns got the run back in the home half of the frame when Suttle went yard, driving a 1-0 pitch down the left field line.

A walk, a sacrifice bunt and a single put two Anteaters in scoring position in the top of the fourth. With two down, Holiday worked the count full but Alaniz forced a pop-up to shallow right to end the threat. Alaniz picked off Ollie Linton at first in the top of the sixth to complete three scoreless innings. The Horns left two aboard in the bottom of the frame after Suttle singled to right and Peoples singled to left. Moldenhauer was denied extra bases when, again, Linton made another grab at the warning track in deep center field.

"The separation between the to teams was, oddly enough, in the outfield," Garrido said. "The two plays by the center fielder, both on Moldenhauer's balls, created outs and did not generate the runs that we had an opportunity to generate. It was brilliant catches by the center fielder, and both of those would have produced runs."

The unearned run in the Anteater third remained the difference in the ballgame until the top of the seventh. That changed when Holiday's deep shot to left plated Aaron Lowenstein who reached on a lead-off single. A passed ball, a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases with two down. Alaniz' work was done as LHP Joseph Krebs made his second appearance of the Regional. The reliever ended the frame on two pitches, forcing a groundout to third. Trailing 3-1, the Horns went in order in the home half of the frame.

Krebs worked a three-up, three-down inning but the Horns were retired in order during the eighth. RHP Randy Boone took the mound in the top of the ninth. After issuing a lead-off single, Boone sat down the side but the Horns were down to their final three outs.

Moldenhauer struck out looking before Nick Peoples drew a base on balls. Fuller hit into a fielders choice before Brett Lewis flew out to center, sending the partisan Burnt Orange contingency to the parking lots and the Horns looking for a silver lining.

"Tomorrow is a new day," Garrido concluded.

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