Whicker: Long night’s journey into Game 3 favors UCLA baseball

  • Jake Moberg #11 of UCLA Bruins scores past catcher Joe Donovan #0 of Michigan for the go ahead run in the 12th inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Joe Donovan #0 of Michigan reacts after hitting a deep fly out to left field against the # of UCLA Bruins in the ninth inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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  • Jake Moberg #11 of UCLA Bruins scores past catcher Joe Donovan #0 of Michigan for the go ahead run in the 12th inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jake Moberg #11 of UCLA Bruins scores past catcher Joe Donovan #0 of Michigan for the go ahead run in the 12th inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Michael Toglia #7 of UCLA Bruins reacts after hitting a game tying home run against Michigan in the seventh inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jake Moberg #11 of UCLA Bruins scores past catcher Joe Donovan #0 of Michigan for the go ahead run in the 12th inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Noah Cardenas #25 of UCLA Bruins tags out Jordan Nwogu #42 of Michigan at home plate in the 10th inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. against the UCLA Bruins won 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Starting pitcher Jack Ralston #19 of UCLA Bruins in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Starting Pitcher Jeff Criswell #17 of Michigan pitches in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jeff Criswell #17 of Michigan reacts after giving up a hit in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jeff Criswell #17 of Michigan throws to the plate against the # of UCLA Bruins in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • The retired number of former # of UCLA Bruins and Brooklyn Dodges Jackie Robinson on the outfield wall during a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game between the UCLA Bruins and Michigan at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Joe Donovan #0 of Michigan rounds second base after hitting a two run home run against the # of UCLA Bruins in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Starting pitcher Jack Ralston #19 of UCLA Bruins in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Ako Thomas #4 of Michigan forces out Ryan Kreidler #3 of UCLA Bruins at second base before completing the double play in the third inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jack Ralston #19 of UCLA Bruins throws to the plate against Michigan in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jack Ralston #19 of UCLA Bruins walks off the mound at the end of the first inning after giving up a run against Michigan of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Michael Toglia #7 of UCLA Bruins high fives teammates after scoring against Michigan in the first inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jack Blomgren #2 of Michigan commits an error as Ryan Kreidler (not pictured) of UCLA Bruins is safe at first base in the third inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Michigan teammates wait for Joe Donovan #0 after he hit a two run home run against the # of UCLA Bruins in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jeremy Ydens OF #18 of UCLA Bruins moves to second base on a fielders choice against Michigan in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Michigan fans cheer after scoring against the # of UCLA Bruins in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jack Ralston #19 of UCLA Bruins after giving up a two run home run against Michigan in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Christan Bullock #5 of Michigan reacts after teammate Joe Donovan (not pictured) hit a two run home run against the # of UCLA Bruins in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Michigan teammates wait for Joe Donovan #0 after he hit a two run home run against the # of UCLA Bruins in the second inning of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jack Ralston #19 of UCLA Bruins walks off the mound at the end of the second inning after giving up a two run home run against Michigan of a NCAA Super Regional Baseball Game at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday, June 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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LOS ANGELES — The prayers are outnumbering the wings at this point.

UCLA closer Holden Powell was out there from innings 8 through 12. With his 77th pitch he got Jordan Dwogu on a grounder, the final stake through the robust heart of Michigan in Game 2 of the NCAA Super Regional.

But the 5-4 win only gets the Bruins to Game 3 and a winner-takes-Omaha final on Sunday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

“I’ve been a starting pitcher most of my career,” Powell said, gallantly. “I’ll be ready to go.”

“Holden told me he could give me five more innings tomorrow,” coach John Savage said, playfully grabbing Powell’s shoulder, not that Powell could necessarily feel it.

This is what happens to the fortunate ones who can get to the end of a college baseball season. Last week both Michigan and UCLA had to work overtime to win regional titles. On Friday night the Wolverines beat UCLA, 2-1. The run differential in this 3-game chapter is zero. Sudden death, anybody?

In the end Savage could barely remember all the hairpin turns of a game that consumed five hours and a minute.

It lasted just a little too long for Michigan’s Joe Donovan, who had homered for a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning (Michigan was the designated home team) and came up again in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied and teammates on first and third.

Donovan juiced a drive that fell maybe a couple of feet short of the same fence he had scaled earlier.

“Maybe a couple of hours earlier it goes out for a walkoff,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich.

“I guess I could have used a little more dryness,” Donovan said. “I was rounding first base and I was just hoping. It just missed the sweet spot of my bat.”

That was dramatic. The rest was just bizarre. Michigan walked 10 Bruins and made five errors and still almost won, although it couldn’t survive the final bobble, by pitcher Walker Cleveland. Kevin Kendall’s gap double scored Jake Moberg in the top of the 12th for what became the game-winner.

The Bruins trailed 3-2 when Michael Toglia launched a solo shot in the eighth, on a night when Toglia walked four times, homered and drove in the first run with a grounder.

In the UCLA ninth, Ryan Kreidler walked with two out and, audaciously, stole second. Chase Strumpf skied a long, difficult drive to the base of the wall, and Michigan left-fielder Christian Bullock drifted, got a glove on it, and muffed it. Kreidler scored to put UCLA ahead.

But Michigan, bidding to go to its first College World Series since 1984 and to get the Big 10 represented for the first time since 2013,  snapped back with Jimmy Kerr’s double and Jack Blomgren’s run-scoring fly, just before Donovan nearly ended it.

But the Bruins’ 11th inning takes the cake, the doughnuts, everything in the bakery.

To summarize a story that is lengthier than a CVS receipt, Michigan made three errors, gave out two intentional walks, watched UCLA load the bases with nobody out, and escaped with no blood.

Jake Pries sent a seed to third base that Michigan’s Blake Nelson caught on the short hop. The Bruins froze as if he’d caught it cleanly, which he nearly did. “It might have been a triple play,” Savage said. Instead, Nelson tagged Garrett Mitchell at third and waited for Kriedler to dutifully come down the baseline, on the force, for another tag.

“Now it’s first-and-second with two outs,” Savage said. “I haven’t seen that before.”

Bakich ordered an intentional walk to Toglia to move Strumpf to third, and Noah Cardenas ended the inning with a grounder. In 12 innings, fifteen Bruins were stranded.

But then shortstop Kriedler, now playing third, made a magical pick on a screaming drive by Jordan Brewer, the Big 10 Player of the Year, to snuff a rally before it started in the 11th..

In the end Savage credited his pitchers for walking just one Wolverine.

“You just have to give our guys credit for having their mental game together but Michigan did, too,” he said. “It was no different for them. Guys are out there on the field for five hours, still competing.”

But Bakich needed only to go back to last week in Corvallis, when Michigan thought it had eliminated Creighton to wrap the regional title, then coughed up seven runs in the ninth and lost. “As soon as the head hits the pillow, it’s a new game,” he said, and Michigan beat Creighton the next day, 18-6, to finish its business.

Tommy Henry beat UCLA here in February and would be the starter Sunday, but Bakich said Henry has been dealing with a virus. For UCLA the starter is Nick Nastrini, who answered the call last weekend against Loyola Marymount.

The 52nd victory was a school record for the Bruins, but winning has become much more complicated since they got to 48. All pitchers on both sides are available for Game 3. All scenarios, too.

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Chapman baseball opens NCAA Division III World Series on Friday vs. Washington & Jefferson

The Chapman University baseball team opens the NCAA Division III baseball championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday at 8 a.m. PT against Washington & Jefferson College of Washington, Pa.

The Panthers (38-11) are making their 15th postseason appearance since joining Division III in 1995, but it’s their first CWS trip in eight years. They advanced to the eight-team, double-elimination World Series by sweeping Concordia University (of Texas) in a best-of-three super regional last weekend, taking the decisive game in walk-off fashion at Hart Park in Orange.

“It’s great for us to have a chance to play in the series,” said Chapman coach Scott Laverty, who took over the program three years ago. “It’s been a while since we have, and this will be a phenomenal experience for the players, for the seniors who have worked hard to get here and the younger players to be a part of this as a learning experience.”

Chapman won its only other Division III national title in 2003, but the program has enjoyed plenty of success beyond that. Chapman’s 1968 team won the Division II crown, the school’s first-ever national title in any sport. Once the Panthers transitioned to Division III in 1995, more success followed with CWS appearances in 1997, 2000 (finishing third) and 2001. The Panthers made six more CWS appearances after the 2003 title, including a third-place finish in 2006 and a runner-up finish in 2011.

These sixth-ranked Panthers are led by stingy pitching. Senior right-hander Tyler Peck (7-3, 1.72 ERA) leads Division III with 150 strikeouts in 104-1/3 innings, and sophomore closer Nick Garcia, also a right-hander, has nine saves and a 0.56 ERA in 48 innings. Peck and Garcia were named first-team All-Americans by D3baseball.com and added the same honor from the American Baseball Coaches Association on Thursday.

In the postseason, Laverty has leaned on the duo in the clinching game in each round. Peck went six innings in Game 5 against Whitman (Wash.) College then handed the ball to Garcia for the final nine outs. They used a similar formula in Game 2 of the Super Regional against Concordia last weekend. The Panthers walked off in the bottom of the ninth in both games as the duo combined for a 0.50 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

Tristan Kevitch and Jarod Penniman have paced the Chapman offense during its postseason run. After hitting .266 in the regular season, Kevitch is batting .556 (15 for 27) with five doubles and a home run in the playoffs. Penniman, a smooth-fielding shortstop, is hitting .444 (12 for 27) in the postseason and scored on a wild pitch to end the super regional.

“We knew we had a good team, and this was in our sites,” Laverty said of the CWS.

Washington & Jefferson is one of just two teams in the field (Webster, Mo. is the other) that did not play a home game during regional or super regional competition.

The Presidents swept their way through a regional at 12th-ranked Salisbury (Md.) University and swept super regional host Misericordia (Pa.) University to earn their second World Series berth in three seasons. The Presidents (37-11) are 16-2 in their last 18 road games, have won eight straight games overall and 34 of their last 38 overall.

The Presidents are led by a trio of seniors at the top of their lineup: center fielder Dante Dalesandro (.360 batting average, .459 on-base percentage, .522 slugging percentage, 41 RBIs, 14 stolen bases), second baseman Mullen Socha (eight HRs, 18 doubles, .600 slugging percentage, 49 RBIs, 51 runs scored, 14 stolen bases) and left fielder James Artale (seven HRs, 44 RBIs, .551 slugging percentage).

Junior right-hander Ben Marsico (11-1, 3.29 ERA) anchors a Washington & Jefferson pitching staff that includes senior right-handers Mitchell Taufer (3-0, 0.83 ERA, 32-2/3 innings) and Clay Martin (11 saves, five in the postseason) at the back of the bullpen.

Chapman will play its second game at 8 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. PT on Saturday, depending on the outcome of Friday’s opener.

The winner of the four-team double-elimination Pool A, which also includes 18th-ranked Webster and 23rd-ranked UMass-Boston, will advance to the best-of-three championship series against the Pool B winner. Pool B consists of No. 7 Babson (Mass.) College, No. 22 Johns Hopkins University (Md.), No. 15 Birmingham Southern (Ala.) College and Heidelberg (Ohio) University.

Tyler (of Texas) won the 2018 title in its first trip to the CWS. The Patriots swept Texas Lutheran in the best-of-three series 8-1 and 9-6 in Appleton, Wisc., where the tournament was played from 2000-2018.

DIVISION III COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

All games at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; all times are PT

Friday

BRACKET 1:

Game 1: Chapman (38-11) vs. Washington & Jefferson (37-11), 8 a.m.

Game 2: Webster (37-11) vs. UMass-Boston (35-12), 11:15 a.m.

BRACKET 2:

Game 3: Babson (38-8) vs. John Hopkins (35-11), 2:30 p.m.

Game 4: Birmingham Southern (39-13) vs. Heidelberg (35-13), 5:45 p.m.

Saturday

BRACKET 1:

Game 5: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 8 a.m.

Game 6: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 11:15 a.m.

BRACKET 2:

Game 7: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, 2:30 p.m.

Game 8: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 5:45 p.m.

Sunday

Game 9: Loser of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 5, 8 a.m.

Game 10: Loser of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 7, 11:15 a.m.

Game 11: Winner of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 9, 2:30 p.m.

Game 12: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 10, 5:45 p.m.

Monday*

Game 13 (if nec.): Winner of Game 11 vs. Loser of Game 11 , 10 a.m.

Game 14 (if nec.)**: Winner of Game 12 vs. Loser of Game 12, 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

* Should neither of these game go to the “if necessary” game, the best-of-3 championship series begins at 10 a.m.

** If Game 13 is not necessary, Game 14 will be played at 10 a.m.

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College baseball: UC Irvine stays in Big West title hunt; UCLA clinches Pac-12 title

UC Irvine scored 11 runs in the first two innings, giving starting pitcher Andre Pallante plenty of cushion to work with as the Anteaters won their series opener against host UC Riverside 11-4 on Thursday night and kept alive their hopes for a share of the Big West Conference title.

UCI’s win, combined with Cal Poly’s 3-0 victory over visiting UC Santa Barbara tightened the conference race heading into the final two days of the season. The 12th-ranked Gauchos (44-8 overall, 18-4 Big West) have a two-game lead over both UCI (36-16, 16-6) and Cal Poly (27-27, 16-6). If Cal Poly beats the Gauchos again Friday and Saturday in San Luis Obispo, UCI can finish in a three-way tie for the title by beating UCR (19-35, 7-15) twice more.

UCI had runners at second and third with one out in the first inning when it took control of Friday’s game. Seven consecutive hits followed, resulting in seven runs and an early exit for UCR starting pitcher Shamus Lyons (3-7).

Mike Peabody and Konnor Zickefoose each singled home runs in the second inning, then Jake Palmer added a two-run single of his own for an 11-0 lead.

Pallante (10-4) blanked the Highlanders until the fifth inning, when a double, a wild pitch and a groundout gave UCR its first run. Pallante held UCR to three runs over his six innings, striking out six against one walk. His 26th career win ties him for sixth with in program history with Glenn Swanson.

Kaz Akamatsu earned his first career save, allowing one run and two hits over three innings. He struck out the side in the eighth.

Palmer went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and a run scored to pace UCI. Adrian Damla (2 for 5, two RBIs, two runs scored), Konnor Zickefoose (2 for 3, two RBIs, two runs scored), Peabody (2 for 5, RBI, two runs scored) and Mikey Filia (2 for 5, one RBI, one run) also had multi-hit days for the Anteaters.

The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. at UCR. Trenton Denholm will start for UCI.

In other games … 

Cal State Northridge 1, Cal State Fullerton 0: Timothy Josten pitched seven scoreless innings (two hits, five strikeouts), but the Titans dropped the opener of their season-ending series on a walk-off passed ball at CSUN.

Blake Doremus led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit single through the right side. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sean Skelly, then Andrew Lucas stroked a single through the left side of the infield to put runners at the corners with one out. With Wesley Ghan-Gibson at the plate, Fullerton reliever Kyle Luckham threw a pitch outside that catcher Kameron Guangorena could not stop. The ball bounced far enough from home plate for Doremus to dash home with the game’s only run.

Josten, who has allowed just three runs in his last five appearances, retired the final 13 batters he faced.

Mitchell Berryhill went 2 for 4 for the Titans (25-26, 11-11 Big West), raising his batting average to .416, which would be the fifth highest single-season average in program history. AJ Curtis also went 2 for 4, but the rest of the Fullerton lineup was held to one hit by CSUN’s Isaiah Nunez. The senior left-hander tied a career high with eight strikeouts in his 126-pitch outing for the Matadors (23-30, 9-13).

The series resumes Friday at 1 p.m., and the Titans now find themselves needing to win their final two games of the season to avoid finishing with the first losing record in program history.

No. 1 UCLA 4, Oregon 2: Michael Toglia’s two-run home run to left field in the eighth inning proved to be the difference as the top-ranked Bruins took the series opener in Eugene, Ore., and, combined with losses by No. 3 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State, clinched the Pac-12 title.

Ryan Garcia (9-0) allowed just three hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and three walks for UCLA (46-8, 23-5 Pac-12), and Holden Powell earned his conference-leading 15th save. The Bruins have won nine games in a row and 25 of their past 27.

Ryan Kreidler (2 for 4, run scored), Jake Pries (2 for 4, RBI), Jack Stronach (2 for 4) and Noah Cardenas (2 for 3, RBI) paced the Bruins at the plate.

The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. Oregon is 27-28, 10-18.

USC 2, No. 11 Oregon State 0: John Beller pitched seven scoreless innings, then Chandler Champlain and Chris Clarke retired the final six batters in order as the Trojans (24-28-1, 12-14-1 Pac-12) shut out the Beavers (35-17-1, 20-7) in the opener of their three-game series in Corvallis, Ore.

USC took advantage of Oregon State errors for each of its runs, setting up Tyler Pritchard’s RBI single in the second inning and Matthew Acosta’s RBI single in the fifth.

Beller worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third, getting a strikeout and then a pop-up to end the threat. The lefty also stranded a runner in scoring position in the fifth after a leadoff double and worked around a two-out single in the seventh.

Champlain got a groundout and two fly balls in the eighth and Clarke got a strikeout, fly ball and a grounder in the ninth to earn his seventh save. Brady Shockey helped preserve the shutout with a highlight-reel catch in the ninth, robbing a home run from the Beavers’ Zack Zalesky.

Long Beach State 3, Hawaii 0: Sophomore left-hander Adam Seminaris scattered five singles and struck out seven, facing just three batters over the minimum on his way to a shutout of Hawaii in the series opener at Blair Field. It was the first complete game of Seminaris’ college career and the first of the season for LBSU (12-41, 6-16 Big West).

Seminaris retired the first 10 batters he faced in order and recorded 16 ground ball outs compared to just two in the air. He also pounded the strike zone with 70 of his 94 pitches going for strikes. He also set a tremendous pace, dispatching Hawaii (20-28, 8-14) in just 2 hours, 1 minute.

Junior Jacob Hughey paced the Long Beach offense with his fifth three-hit game of the season. The junior first baseman was 3 for 4 with a double and scored twice. Chris Jimenez and Chase Luttrell had the other two hits for LBSU and Victor Carlino logged a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to record the only RBI of the night.

The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. when Long Beach junior Nick Avila (0-5, 3.99 ERA) squares off with Hawaii’s Aaron Davenport (2-5, 4.80 ERA).

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Rachel Garcia, Holly Azevedo combine for UCLA softball no-hitter in NCAA Tournament

  • UCLA’s Rachel Garcia hits a sacrifice fly during the second inning of the Bruins’ NCAA Regional opener against Weber State on Friday night at Easton Stadium. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • UCLA’s Brianna Perez, right, steals second base during their NCAA Regional opener against Weber State on Friday night at Easton Stadium. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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  • UCLA players celebrate after finishing an inning during their NCAA Regional opener against Weber State on Friday night at Easton Stadium. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • UCLA starting pitcher Rachel Garcia delivers a pitch during their NCAA Regional opener against Weber State on Friday night at Easton Stadium. Garcia struck out 13 in six innings, combining on a no-hitter in the 6-0 win. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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LOS ANGELES — Nothing could stop Rachel Garcia on Friday night except her own coach.

The star junior pitcher took a perfect game into the final frame against Weber State in the first round of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional at Easton Stadium, but when the Bruins exploded for a four-run sixth inning, head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez didn’t hesitate to pull Garcia from the circle.

With a 6-0 win in hand to start UCLA’s postseason run, the ace didn’t complain.

“She told me it’s not about her personal accolades, it’s about winning,” Inouye-Perez said. “She wants to win a natty.”

Garcia dominated with 13 strikeouts as she and sophomore Holly Azevedo combined for the 112th no-hitter in program history and third this season. The second-seeded Bruins (47-5) face Missouri in the winner’s bracket Saturday at 3 p.m. while Big Sky champion Weber State will play Cal State Fullerton, which lost 7-4 to the Tigers on Friday, in Saturday’s elimination game at 5:30 p.m.

Although Garcia was approaching rarefied air – she was on track for UCLA’s first seven-inning perfect game by a single pitcher since Heather Compton in 1991 – Inouye-Perez said the plan was always to pull Garcia as soon as the offense got the necessary insurance runs.

UCLA put up two runs in the first inning but was held scoreless until it strung together six consecutive hits in the sixth, which led to four runs and Garcia’s departure after just 70 pitches. Azevedo had two strikeouts in the seventh, and an error from shortstop Briana Perez in the seventh was the only blemish on the would-be perfect game.

With the Bruins chasing their first NCAA title since 2010, they must “save bullets” for their talented trio of pitchers, Inouye-Perez said. Garcia is still expected to start Saturday, the coach revealed after Friday’s game, with UCLA holing Azevedo and freshman Megan Faraimo in the bullpen. Faraimo owns the other two UCLA no-hitters this season, tossing both during nonconference play.

“We’re in a position to make sure that our staff can win this weekend,” Inouye-Perez said.

Perez and second baseman Kinsley Washington led the offensive effort, each going 3 for 3 at the plate with one RBI. They gave UCLA consistent bats at the top of the lineup and the bottom as Perez hit second and Washington hit eighth.

“The top is expected to do that, there’s a reason we put them at the top of the lineup, but when the bottom does what they do, that creates what you see,” Inouye-Perez said. “The speed, you see them passing the bat, that’s when we’re at our best.”

Rachel Garcia has been lights out in the ⭕ through 4 innings. 🔥#NCAASoftball | @UCLASoftball pic.twitter.com/Zh5NT5Qjd7

— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 18, 2019

Kinsley Washington clobbers the ball to the center field wall for RBI triple!#NCAASoftball | @UCLASoftball pic.twitter.com/pPA3cFGsuc

— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 18, 2019

The hits keep coming for @UCLASoftball! Bubba Nickles extends the lead to 5-0 with a RBI double to the right-center gap.#NCAASoftball pic.twitter.com/sKCEXUTDDT

— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 18, 2019

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Cal State Fullerton baseball blanks Long Beach State in series opener

FULLERTON — For the first time in decades, the Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State baseball programs are meeting in a late-season series that has no postseason implications for either side.

That doesn’t mean the longtime Big West Conference rivals lack motivation when it comes to an opportunity to earn bragging rights over each other.

Pitchers Timothy Josten and Kyle Luckham combined on a shutout as the Titans defeated Long Beach 6-0 in their series opener on Thursday night at Goodwin Field.

The Titans, who swept the teams’ annual nonconference series at Blair Field earlier this season, are trying to complete a six-game season sweep for the first time since 2013.

Fullerton (23-25, 9-10 Big West) spent much of the night protecting a 1-0 lead before breaking the game open with a four-run seventh inning, highlighted by Kameron Guangorena’s two-run single.

Josten (3-4) had his best start of the season, as the left-hander held LBSU (11-39, 5-14) to four hits through seven innings while striking out two. Luckham allowed just three hits in the final two innings. It was the Titans’ third shutout of the season.

Zach Lew went 3 for 3 with two runs and an RBI to pace Fullerton, which will miss the NCAA postseason for the first time since 1991.

Senior Hank LoForte and Jacob Pavletich kicked off the final home series of their CSF careers with solid nights. LoForte went 3 for 4 with a walk, one run scored and an RBI. Pavletich went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and a run scored.

Sophomore left-hander Adam Seminaris (3-9) allowing just one unearned run in six innings for LBSU, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out five.

Three LBSU players had multi-hit games: Chris Jimenez and Jacob Hughey both went 2 for 4, while Aidan Malm went 2 for 3 with a walk. Hughey and Malm each had a double.

Long Beach had at least one runner on base in seven of the nine innings and loaded the bases in the sixth with two hits and a walk, but Fullerton shortstop Brett Borgogno caught Chase Luttrell’s sinking line drive to end the threat. Long Beach managed a pair of singles and a walk in the ninth inning but stranded two runners in scoring position to end the game.

The series continues Friday at 8:15 p.m., with right-hander Nick Avila (0-4, 4.50) scheduled to start for LBSU. Fullerton has not named a started for Game 2. The series finale, which will be Senior Day for the Titans, is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.

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Guy sinks FTs on disputed foul, Virginia shocks Auburn in Final Four game

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hard to call Virginia basketball boring after the last two games. And the Cavaliers have pretty much put the choker label to rest, too.

From one-and-done to NCAA Tournament miracle men, Virginia will play for the national title for the first time after pulling off another last-second stunner. Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left, steadily swishing each one as debate immediately started over the sequence that sent him to the line, and Virginia beat Auburn 63-62 Saturday in the Final Four.

A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, these top-seeded Cavaliers now look like destiny’s team.

“It’s a great story,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “It is.”

The Cavaliers (34-3) will face Texas Tech on Monday night as the slight favorite to win the tournament.

Bennett has built a powerhouse in 10 years in Charlottesville on a style of play that is often about as exciting as a trip to the campus library. The Cavaliers have gotten straight A’s in the regular season with stingy defense and walk-it-up offense, but NCAA success has been hard to come by. Blown leads and early exits have been their story — never more than when the Cavaliers lost to UMBC, a school known for chess, not hoops.

Something has gotten into these Wahoos the last two weeks, though. They reached the Final Four for the first time since 1984 with a wild buzzer-beater by Mamadi Diakite to send their Elite Eight game against Purdue to overtime. Beating the Tigers took an even crazier finish.

Fifth-seeded Auburn (30-10) had erased a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes and taken a 4-point lead. Heartbreak was again at hand for Virginia.

The Tigers led 61-60 after Guy made an off-balance 3 with 7.6 seconds left. The shot snapped a drought of more than five minutes by the Cavaliers, who then immediately sent Jared Harper to the line.

Harper made one and Auburn, with fouls to give, did so twice. On one of them, it looked as if Ty Jerome might have double-dribbled into a decisive turnover. Jerome also might have been fouled before the mishandle. But there was no whistle for either.

“We knew there was a disruption,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.

With 1.5 seconds left and in need of some magic, Virginia got the ball to Guy in the corner. He turned and fired and Samir Doughty, hands straight up in the air, bumped into Guy’s hip. The shot was short, bouncing off the rim. Game over? Auburn started to celebrate and the PA announcer in U.S. Bank Stadium even announced the Tigers had won.

Guy pulled his jersey over his face. But not in angst. He said he exactly knew why official James Breeding had blown his whistle.

“I heard him call it right away,” Guy said. “That was me focusing.”

Meanwhile, Pearl lost it on the sideline, pumping his fist and screaming.

“We kind of thought we had it sealed,” said Bryce Brown, who led the Auburn comeback with three 3s in the final 4:30. “It’s not why we lost the game. I just didn’t agree with the call.”

Pearl said he didn’t want the final call to define a great game, but he did say the officials seemed to be letting physical play go throughout.

“My advice … if that’s a foul, call it,” Pearl said. “Call it at the beginning of the game, call it in the middle of the game, call it at the end of the game. Don’t call it any more or less at any other time during the game.”

Guy swished the first two free throws to tie it and Auburn called a timeout to ice him. Didn’t work. He hit one more for the lead.

“I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special,” Guy said.

Auburn threw a long inbound pass to Brown, but his desperation 3 was short.

The Cavaliers mobbed Guy on one end. Brown sat on the court, head hanging on the other. Auburn, in the Final Four for the first time, had its 12-game winning streak and season end in a most painful way.

NCAA national coordinator of officials J.D. Collins declined comment on the potential double dribble, but said Breeding’s call was correct.

The foul violated the rule that “verticality applies to a legal position and also to both the offensive and defensive players,” Collins said. “The defender may not ‘belly up’ or use the lower part of the body or arms to cause contact outside his vertical plane or inside the opponent’s vertical plane.”

Jerome scored 21 points for Virginia and De’Andre Hunter had 10 of his 14 in a stellar second half.

Doughty led Auburn with 13 points and Brown had 12 for Auburn, which survived the first round against New Mexico State when Terrell Brown of the Aggies missed two of three free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining in the Tigers’ 78-77 victory.

Auburn wasn’t so fortunate this time, and Virginia, the team that made UMBC a household name — at least for a little while — in the first round of last year’s tournament would not be denied. Being on the receiving end of maybe the most humbling NCAA Tournament upset ever has been Virginia’s cross to bear all season. Even after beating Auburn, the Cavaliers had to recall the feeling of their offseason routine starting unexpectedly early last year.

“I feel like I get asked this question every single round, every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost,” Jerome said, “and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter.”

Then Guy said: “Not much to add. Just you guys can ask that question again on Monday.”

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Mooney scores, Texas Tech clamps down in Final Four victory over Michigan State

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For those who thought Texas Tech only plays defense, it’s time to meet Matt Mooney.

While the Red Raiders were locking down Michigan State on one end, the graduate transfer shooting guard was raining in 3s on the other, lifting Tech one win away from a title Saturday night with a 61-51 victory over the Spartans in the Final Four.

Mooney matched his season-high with 22 points, including three 3-pointers over the span of 3 minutes to give Texas Tech a 13-point lead midway through the second half.

With the kind of ‘D’ Texas Tech plays, it was too much to overcome, and now the Red Raiders are getting ready for another defensive battle, in a Monday final against Virginia, and its vaunted pack line defense. The Cavaliers are a slight 1-point favorite, and the over/under was at 117½ and falling late Saturday night.

Texas Tech wins by doing just enough on the offensive end. On this night, Mooney did the major damage.

“He’s obviously very, very talented, but the thing that impressed me tonight was just his courage, wanting to make those big plays in big moment,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said.

Mooney’s first two shots in the stretch capped a 5-for-5 hot streak by Texas Tech (31-6) that stood as the game’s only true blast of offense. His third 3 gave Texas Tech a 48-35 lead with 9:38 left.

Before and after that, it was all about defense — a game filled with air balls, blocked shots and clogged-up passing lanes. At one point, over a two minute stretch late in the first half, eight shots went up. Six of them didn’t touch the rim.

It was, to put it Texas Tech’s way, perfectly ugly.

“It’s like they never make mistakes,” Michigan State forward Kenny Goins said. “They got us kind of caught in that trap today.”

Michigan State (32-7) leaves coach Tom Izzo’s eighth Final Four with its seventh loss — the 2000 title is still the only time the Spartans have taken it all the way under their veteran coach.

But they did not go away easily.

After Mooney put them down by a baker’s dozen, the Spartans trimmed it to 3. Matt McQuaid had a wide-open look from the corner — one of the very few on this night — that would’ve tied it with 1:50 left, but the ball rimmed out and the Red Raiders pulled away.

Jarrett Culver (10 points, five boards) finished it off. He made one free throw on the next trip down, then Norense Odiase swiped the ball from MSU’s Xavier Tillman — one of Tech’s four steals on the night — and the Red Raiders worked the ball to Culver, who made his only 3 to push the lead to 58-51 and start the celebration.

Culver shot 0 for 6 in the first half, and scored six of his 10 points over the last 2:30.

“When you’ve got a whole team that trusts you on the court, you keep shooting with confidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, a defense that led the nation in efficiency and held teams to under 37% shooting this season — second best in the county — held Michigan State to 31.9% from the floor.

Most tellingly, it stymied Big Ten player of the year Cassius Winston. Yes, Winston led the Spartans with 16 points, but it came on 4-for-16 shooting, and he was held scoreless in second half for more than 10 minutes — not perking up until after Mooney had given the Red Raiders their big cushion.

Mooney is the fifth-year senior who made his way to Texas Tech after graduating from South Dakota — the school he transferred to after a rough year at Air Force.

Most all these Red Raiders have a story like that.

Beard is on his 12th stop in a travelogue of a career — and he’s been recruiting grinders like him to help him take this most-unexpected ride.

Culver wasn’t in the top 300 among high school recruits, and chose his hometown college over a few other places. He kept battling despite the rough start, and Texas Tech overcame his cold first half to head to the locker room leading by the not-so-scintillating score of 23-21. It was the lowest scoring first half at the Final Four since the Spartans took a 19-17 lead over Wisconsin in a 2000 slugfest.

“We threw a lot of punches tonight,” Beard said. “We tried a lot of things on defense, and fortunately most of them worked.”

Culver had one block and rim protector Tariq Owens, also a grad transfer, had three more before leaving late in the second half with a leg injury.

Owens came jogging back in toward the end to the cheers of the Texas Tech crowd, which included alum Patrick Mahomes, the high-flying QB for the Chiefs.

“Pretty cool to have the MVP of the NFL on our side, cheering for us,” Mooney said.

Turns out, the quarterback isn’t the only Red Raider who can light up that scoreboard.

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Brubaker pitches complete game as UC Irvine baseball defeats LBSU Dirtbags

IRVINE – UC Irvine’s Tanner Brubaker and Long Beach State’s Nick Avila went head-to-head in a pitcher’s duel Saturday night at Cicerone Field, the Anteaters getting the win thanks to a ball that rolled about ten feet.

Brubaker won his fourth game of the season and lowered his ERA to 2.04, pitching the Anteater’s first complete game of the season in a 4-1 win, allowing just six hits, not walking anyone and striking out eight.

Avila, making his second start for the Dirtbags, allowed three hits in seven innings and the lone run scored against him cam home on a force play.

Tied 1-1 after 7 ½, the Anteaters rallied against reliever Tyler Gums. With one out, Mikey Filia drew a walk and went to third on Brandon Lewis’ single to left field.

With Adrian Damla at-bat, head coach Ben Orloff called for a safety squeeze. Damla’s bunt slowly rolled toward the pitcher but never reached the grass. Catcher Dominic Campeau stayed home and let Gums make the play, and the pitcher’s throw was too late to get Filia.

“We want to be able to win any kind of game we’re in,” Orloff said after the win that pushed the Anteaters to 20-5 on the season and 4-1 in Big West play. “It was a safety squeeze which can be tough to defend.”

Filia went on contact as the ball rolled toward the mound. “You just trust the play,” the junior center field said.

“You go on contact and run as fast and as hard as you can.

“I thought the pitcher did a good job getting off the mound and to the ball.”

“I’m not sure it was a safety squeeze,” Dirtbags coach Troy Buckley said. “It was just aggressive baseball. Filia did a great getting down the line.”

The bunt made it 2-1, and Christian Koss singled two runs home later in the inning to make it 4-1.

Both coaches praised their starters. Orloff left Brubaker in for nine even though he allowed the leadoff man to reach base in six of nine innings.

“The way he throws so many strikes, he wasn’t going to beat him by issuing any walks even when they had men on base,” Orloff said.

Avila pitched well in a five-inning start last week at Cal. He worked out of a second-and-third and one out rally in the sixth. UC Irvine was able to use a single, two walks and a groundout to nick him for a run in the seventh and tie the game.

“Nick gave us a chance to win, and I think that’s a good step up for him,” Buckley said of the junior right-hander. “That was his longest effort, and it would have been unfair to him if we had asked him to go any longer.”

Long Beach got its run on Calvin Estrada’s first home run of the season, a line drive over the left field wall.

The snake bit Dirtbags (4-25) got the leadoff runner on in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings but were unable to push a run across. In the eighth, Kyle Hogan singled, went to second on a bunt and to third on a fly ball, but Jacob Hughey struck out to end the rally.

The Anteaters finally got a run in the seventh. With one out, Mike Peabody singled. Avila then issued his first walk on four pitches to Christian Koss, then was ahead of John Jensen 1-2 before walking Jensen to load the bases.

Avila stayed in and Brooks hit a grounder in the hole a short that resulted in a fielder’s choice and a run to tie the game 1-1.

The Anteaters have gone from the unranked to the No. 19 spot in the latest rankings. They win Saturday clinched the series for them, giving them a series win in all eight they have played this season.

The teams finish the series at Cicerone Field today at 1 p.m.

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Duke’s Zion Williamson wins AP men’s college player of the year

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Just about everything Zion Williamson did at Duke created a highlight or headline in a spectacle of a season.

The soaring dunks.

The open-court moves more nimble than his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame should allow.

Even the freak occurrence of one of his feet tearing through its shoe in a fall to the court.

Handling all that attention became maybe the biggest lesson for the freshman, who quickly became the face of college basketball and the game’s biggest star in years — then fittingly finished as The Associated Press men’s player of the year.

“I was comfortable with it because you don’t really have a choice,” Williamson said in an interview with the AP earlier this week. “I think if you try to force it out, then it’s going to bother you. … My mom just told me to look at it as a lot of kids would wish to be in my position, so if it does bother me, I just think about it like that.”

Williamson claimed 59 of 64 votes from AP Top 25 voters before the NCAA Tournament in results released Friday. Freshman teammate RJ Barrett earned two votes as a fellow AP first-team All-American, while Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Murray State’s Ja Morant each earned one vote.

Williamson had hoped to be in Minneapolis preparing for Saturday’s national semifinals like Hunter and Winston. But the Blue Devils fell to Winston’s Spartans in the Elite Eight as the top overall seed.

“I was just telling (teammates) don’t let nobody tell you this season was a disappointment, because people have got to understand it’s March Madness,” he said, adding: “I mean, winning the championship is not a cakewalk.”

In a likely one-year college stop for a possible top overall NBA draft pick, the 18-year-old Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while ranking second nationally by shooting 68%. He also ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in steals (2.12) and blocks (1.79).

Williamson’s play was marked by breathtaking athleticism to go by, through and over anyone to get the ball (look at his personal-favorite 360-degree dunk against Clemson or his rapid-closeout swat of Hunter’s shot at Virginia for proof).

There was the charisma, too. He projected a self-assured ease amid the crush of postgame interviews, even routinely having walk-on Mike Buckmire join him as a wingman as though bringing his teammate into his unique orbit.

“It’s been remarkable what he’s done,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who recruited Williamson. “There hasn’t been many guys like that to come down the road. So the attention he’s gotten, I think he’d deserved. … He’s driven a different ship.”

That February shoe blowout illustrated just how different.

Williamson missed nearly six full games after injuring his knee in the fall, which had his left foot sticking through the side of his Paul George signature shoe from Nike. The bizarre image wounded Nike’s day-after stock price and had some arguing that he shouldn’t return to protect his pro stock.

That was never an option for Williamson. He returned in the ACC Tournament sporting a reinforced pair of Kyrie Irving Nikes, which followed Nike representatives visiting Duke’s campus to sort out what went wrong.

The unusual moments of stardom didn’t stop there, either.

“Cars will be driving by (on campus) and I mean, they’ll just stop,” Williamson said with a chuckle. “In the middle of the road. And people will jump out of the car and get pictures. I’m looking at my watch, I have two minutes to get to class and my class is a five-minute walk. … I’ll look at them and they’ll be so high, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I got you, I’ll take the picture.”

He also frequently encountered Duke fans waiting near the practice gym for autographs.

“You’ve got 20 minutes before that clock starts for practice, you’ve got like 20 people outside,” Williamson said. “You’re like, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ So then it comes down to: do I say no? Or do I tell them to wait?

“I’ve been in a lot of situations. Sometimes they understood, other times they weren’t so accepting of it. But I guess that’s part of life.”

Williamson said there’s “obviously a high possibility” he enters the draft but he’s not ready to make anything official as he enjoys being a college student a little longer with plans on taking summer classes toward a degree.

Williamson said he has no regrets, calling the season “the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

“My mom would tell me, ‘College is something you don’t want to miss out on’ because not only have I enjoyed the basketball side of coming to Duke, I’ve enjoyed being a student here just as much,” Williamson said. “The relationships I’ve built with the students here — like talking to kids I guess people wouldn’t picture me talking to, hanging out with them — it’s bigger than basketball.”

VOTING BREAKDOWN

  • Zion Williamson, Duke — 59
  • R.J. Barrett, Duke — 2
  • De’Andre Hunter, Virginia — 1
  • Ja Morant, Murray State — 1
  • Cassius Winston, Michigan State — 1

 

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Long Beach State sweeps UC Irvine in men’s volleyball

LONG BEACH – All three set sweeps in volleyball aren’t necessarily as one-sided as they look.

Long Beach State took a 28-26, 26-24 and 25-14 win over UC Irvine at the Walter Pyramid Saturday night, the first two sets coming down to a sliver of good play and good fortune by the 49ers.

The No. 2 ranked 49ers, who beat the Anteaters in four sets Friday in Irvine, used 13 kills, three aces, three digs and a block from Kyle Ensing for their Saturday win. TJ DeFalco and Nick Amado had nine kills each and Josh Tuaniga had nine digs and 36 assists without an error.

“Those were two good back-to-back wins against a good team that battled,” head coach Alan Knipe said after the win that improved the 49ers to 21-1 and 6-0 in Big West play.

“Our offense struggled in the first set but our serving and defense bailed us out. I always say that if one part of your game isn’t working, the other parts can sometimes be that which gets it going. We showed a lot of grit and fight to come back to win the second set.”

“We do find energy late in matches, but we really want to punch the opponent in the face in the first set, and make them play our game,” said libero Jordan Molina.

The first set saw both teams use runs to get a lead or get back into the game – the 49ets an early 5-0 and late 6-1, and UC Irvine a 4-0 ad 5-1 of their own. The set was tied at 20 when the 49ers finally were able to subdue the Anteaters. They had four set-point opportunities but the Anteaters rallied for ties each time.

Tied at 26, Ensing dropped a back row kill and Irvine’s Aaron Koubi’s kill attempt caught the antennae to give the 49ers the set. UC Irvine challenged the call but the replay monitor wasn’t conclusive enough to change the initial call.

UC Irvine outplayed the 49ers for most of the second set. They had a three-point lead midway through and sustained that edge to a 22-18 lead. The set could have been over if the Anteaters hadn’t committed seven service errors.

Long Beach hit the accelerator and outscored UC Irvine 8-2 down the stretch. DeFalco had a kill and an ace to start it and Ensing had back-to-back kills, sandwiched around two Irvine errors. Down 24-23, Ensing scored to tie it, Amado was at the center of a triple block of UC Irvine’s Joel Apfelbach, and the Anteaters muffed DeFalco’s serve on game point.

The 49ers ran off to a quick 9-4 lead in the third set and used an 8-2 run to end the set and claim the match. It was the seventh loss in eight matches for UC Irvine (14-9), who has been without outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller for four matches with an arm injury.

Schneidmiller was the freshman of the year in the Big West in 2018 and led the Anteaters in kills with a 3.6 average and a team-high 41 aces.

“In this situation, you gave a Plan A if he plays and a Plan B if he doesn’t,” Knipe said. “You don’t usually have access to injury information so you prepare for anything.”

UC Irvine expects Schneidmiller to return but has no timetable. “The fortunate thing about the injury is the timing,” Anteaters coach David Kniffin said. “We got to test the adjustments we have to make against a great team. I thought we played well enough to win the first two sets.

“It would be a strong statement to say anyone is comparable to TJ (DeFalco), but Joel has been a big part of our success and our identity. I’ve stressed to the team that we need to play the best brand of UC Irvine volleyball while he’s out, which I think can be competitive with anyone.”

The 49ers have four regular seasons games left, a home-and-home with UC San Diego next weekend and then two home games against No. 1-ranked Hawaii April 12-13.

UC Irvine has home-and-home matches against Northridge and UC Santa Barbara to end their season. The Big West Tournament, which all six teams compete for, is April 18-20 at Hawaii.

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