CWS Primer: UC Irvine Anteaters
Omaha History: 2nd CWS appearance
Overview: The UC Irvine Anteaters revived their baseball program in 2000, and in the 14 years since they’ve become a highly successful team. This year’s Anteaters squad is steeped in fundamentals. They’re one of the best teams in the country at sacrifice bunting. It’s not the most exciting stat in the world, but it’s an effective strategy in TD Ameritrade. Their small ball approach has helped them excel in close games. Their bullpen racked up 27 saves this season. Their pitching staff also shines when it comes to the little things. They have 4th best strikeout to walk ratio in the country. They only allow about two walks per game, and that strategy of minimizing base runners has served them well.
Road To Omaha: UC-Irvine took one of the hardest routes in the country to get to the CWS. They were in number one overall seed, Oregon State’s region to begin their trip. They battled out of that regional with a 3-1 record. Then they squared off with another number one seed, Oklahoma State, who they managed to sweep. The three seeded Anteaters are the lowest seed remaining in the CWS.
Players To Watch:
Andrew Morales - He’s one of the top pitchers in the country. He went 11-2 this year with a 1.53 ERA and 136 strikeouts. His ability to miss bats helped him get drafted as a compensatory pick in the second round this season. His stats say opponents only hit .182 against him, but even that seems a little high with the filthy stuff he throws up there on regular basis.
Sam Moore - It might seem weird to have a closer as a player to watch, but last year I listed UCLA’s excellent closer as someone to watch and they ended up winning the CWS. Sam Moore is a key part of what UC-Irvine does. He led the country in saves this season, and since their small ball approach makes every game close his value is even higher to the Anteaters. Moore is the unbeatable boss at the end of the UC-Irvine video game. He’s the one that makes you toss your controller across the room and hit reset and contemplate why you still play video games.
Take The Title If…: If the Anteaters can keep playing the way they have the past few weeks there’s no reason they can’t win it all. They already knocked off what was supposed to be the country’s best team. They have a deep pitching staff, and their style is built to play in TD Ameritrade Park. In fact it’s very similar to the style played by the team that plays there most of the year.
Quick Trip If…: If their pitching staff falters or they can’t come up with timely hits then the clock will strike midnight on the Anteaters ball, but hopefully Morales won’t turn into a pumpkin if that happens.
Why Should Omaha Cheer For Them?: Cinderella!!! Seriously, this is the lowest seed left, but it feels odd calling them Cinderella. They’re more like a Cinderella back story where she’s just the awkward sister not basically their glorified house keeper. They’re Cinderella with legit talent and firepower. Plus, they’re the Anteaters and if you don’t want to cheer for a team with that nickname then you are clearly doing it wrong.