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UCLA is on familiar territory at baseball regional

Bruins are playing host to four-team tournament that includes UC Irvine, whose season ended on the same field last year.

May 30, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA's Cody Regis gets a cheery welcome from teammate Dean Espy (14) after hitting a two-run home run against TCU in last season's College World Series.
UCLA's Cody Regis gets a cheery welcome from teammate Dean Espy (14)… (Eric Francis / Associated…)

UCLA starts its baseball postseason where its regular season began and UC Irvine returns to where its season ended in 2010.

The Bruins (33-22), who play host to a regional in the NCAA tournament, take on San Francisco (31-23), a team they opened the season against, Friday at 6 p.m. UC Irvine (39-16), which UCLA eliminated in a 2010 regional, plays Fresno State (40-14) at 2 p.m.

"Whenever you have four teams from the West, you know you're getting a tough regional," UCLA Coach John Savage said. "You have two coaches who have won national titles, [UC Irvine's] Mike Gillespie and [Fresno State's] Mike Batesole. It is going to be a challenging weekend."

Cal State Fullerton (40-15), which also plays host to a regional, faces Illinois (28-25) on Friday at 8 p.m. Kansas State (36-23) plays Stanford (32-20) at 4 p.m. in the regional's first game.

The top eight seeded teams in the NCAA tournament are Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, defending champion South Carolina, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Texas and Rice. It is the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams that a team from the west isn't among the top eight.

The Bruins were ranked No. 1 at the start of the season and swept San Francisco in their first series, giving up only one run in the three games.

Pitching was not a problem for UCLA, which struggled at the plate earlier in the season. But the Bruins won eight of their last 10 Pacific 10 Conference games to win the conference title.

"We started swinging the bats better toward the end of year," Savage said. "We pitched pretty well the entire year. The combination of offense, pretty good defense and consistent pitching enabled us to get it back."

San Francisco won the West Coast Conference title by winning two of the last three games against Gonzaga in Spokane to finish one game ahead of the Bulldogs. San Francisco was 1-9 against Pac-10 teams this season. But Savage said, "that schedule paid off for them in their conference."

This is the second consecutive season that Irvine has been sent to UCLA for the regional. The Anteaters were handed Fresno State, which won the national title in 2008.

"Obviously, I think this is a tough regional from our perspective," Gillespie said. "It's a little tougher than last year."

But, Gillespie said, "if you don't like where you're sent, don't cry about it. Be a better team so you host your own regional."

Fullerton, the Big West Conference champion, did just that. It is the fourth consecutive season that the Titans have played host to a regional and the seventh time in eight seasons.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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