#13 Washington 8, UC-Irvine 7

Kyle Larsen lined a two run single to score Ben Johnson and Greg Isaacson as the 13th ranked Huskies finished the regular season in dramatic fashion, rallying for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to stun the UC-Irvine Anteaters 8-7 on a sunny but blustery Sunday afternoon at Husky Ballpark.

The Huskies trailed 7-4 going into their final at-bat and faced the daunting task of coming back against UC-Irvine closer Blair Erickson, who entered the game leading the nation in saves with 17.

The inning also began on a promising note for Erickson as he got ahead of the first batter John Otness two strikes, but then he hit Otness with a pitch. Nick Batkoski followed with a single to left and Johnson walked to load the bases with none out. Erickson retired Brent Lillibridge on a shallow fly ball to right for the first out, but Isaacson lined a single to center to score Otness, and when center fielder Gary Dudrey threw the ball past no one in particular at third base, Batkoski scored to bring the Huskies within a run at 7-6.

Johnson and Isaacson both moved up a base on Dudrey's error, and the Anteaters elected to intentionally walk leading Husky batter Zach Clem to load the bases and set up a force at any base with Larsen coming up to bat. It looked like the decision would pay off when Erickson got two strikes against Larsen but then he lined the next pitch to left to plate the tying and winning runs, and a happy Husky team mobbed Isaacson when he crossed the plate.

The game did not begin on such a happy note for starter Matt Kasser and the Huskies. Jordan Szabo gave the Anteaters a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot over the wall in left field by the flagpole. The Huskies got even in the bottom of the first as Isaacson walked, stole second, and scored on a single to left by Larsen. In the second, Matt Lane put the Huskies on top 2-1 when he led off with his sixth homer of the season, a shot over the 365 mark in right field.

The Anteaters came back, however, to take a 5-2 lead in the third with four runs against Kasser. With one out Matt Fisher walked and Matt Anderson grounded a single to right. Szabo then hit a grounder up the middle that Isaacson managed to get his glove but the ball rolled away for an infield single, allowing Fisher to score from second and tie the game at 2.

Cody Cipriano gave UC-Irvine a 3-2 lead when he lined a single to right center to score Anderson. Cipriano then stole second, and on the play catcher Aaron Hathaway attempted to pick Szabo off third but threw the ball into left field for an error, allowing Szabo to score and Cipriano to take third. Cipriano raced home from second with another apparent run on the play, but the ball got trapped beneath the tarp in left field, and the umpires ruled that Cipriano had to return to third. That ruling turned out to have no effect as Tim Stewart grounded a single to center to score Cipriano and make it 5-2.

The Huskies should have had a run in the bottom of the third but Szabo made a great leaping catch at the wall in left center field to rob Clem of an extra base hit, and that play loomed large when Larsen doubled down the right field line.

UC-Irvine took advantage of an extra out in the fourth to take a 6-2 lead. Dudrey reached base on a strikeout/wild pitch, stole second, and scored on a single to right by Anderson. The Anteaters might have done more damage but Lillibridge made a great diving catch on a blooper into shallow center field by Kyle Rykebosch.

The Huskies made it 6-3 in their half of the fifth as Lillibridge singled, advanced to third on a hit and run single by Isaacson, and scored on a passed ball by catcher Mark Wagner on a 3-2 pitch from reliever David Huff to Larsen. Then in the sixth they cut the deficit to 6-4 when Lillibridge walked, took second on a balk by Huff, and scored all the way from second when Huff threw the ball into right field on the balk.

The Anteaters got to reliever Josh Conover for a run and a 7-4 in the top of the ninth. Fisher singled, moved to third on a double by Anderson and scored on an infield single by Szabo. They looked like they would salvage the final game of the series until the Huskies rallied in the last of the ninth.

On the mound, Conover pitched five terrific innings to earn his first win of the season, improving to 1-0. He held the Anteaters hitless for four innings and struck out three before they got to him for a run in the ninth. He also kept the Huskies in the game after the Anteaters got to Kasser for six runs, five earned, on seven hits and two walks in four innings.

Huff pitched four innings of fine relief for UC-Irvine, giving up an unearned run on one hit and one walk, with two strikeouts, but Erickson could not slam the door on the Huskies and suffered the loss to drop to 1-3.

With the win the Huskies swept the three game non conference series and ended the regular season at 37-18-1, while the Anteaters fell to 34-21-1. With a second place (15-9) finish in the Pac-10 and the season ending sweep the Huskies hope to earn a #1 seed at one of 16 regionals when ESPN2 announces the 64 team field for the NCAA Tournament and journey to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 31.

The Anteaters still hope to get a postseason berth but may have had their hopes dashed with the loss on Sunday

Prior to Sunday's finale, the Huskies honored seven players making their final appearance at Husky Ballpark on Senior Day: Trent Baysinger, Conover, Trevor Gibson, Jamie Hawkins, Isaacson, Ben Johnson and Otness.

The NCAA revealed the 16 host institutions for NCAA Regional action from Friday, June 4 to Sunday, June 6: Arkansas, Cal-State Fullerton, East Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Mississippi, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, and Virginia.

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