STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — No underdog. No Cinderella team.
UC Irvine realizes it's on a terrific run, but the Anteaters don't need any such labels. They just keep on winning.
Andrew Morales pitched a five-hit shutout to lead UC Irvine to a 1-0 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday night that clinched the super regional series and sent the Anteaters to the College World Series.
UC Irvine (40-23) advanced to Omaha for first time since 2007 and just the second time overall since becoming a Division I program in 2002.
The two-game sweep continues an unlikely run for the Anteaters, who entered the Corvallis regional last week as the No. 3 seed having lost six straight and eight of nine. But they upset national No. 1 seed Oregon State to advance.
"In those eight losses, we were on the other side of this type of game five times," UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said. "A loss is a loss, but the fact is, we did play well and we really pitched well. So the fact that we've done well (since), it's really not as big a shock as it looks like, because our pitching has really given us chances time after time."
Morales earned his third postseason victory in eight days, striking out eight and walking two in nine innings. The Anteaters scored the game's only run in the first inning on Jonathan Munoz's RBI double, and Morales made it stand.
"Just execute pitches, keep the ball down and they can't hurt you," said Morales, who recorded wins over UNLV and Oregon State in the regionals and is now 11-2 on the year. "I trusted my curveball today and my slider. Those have been my two best pitches all year. It was a great game to be a part of."
It was a disappointing ending for Oklahoma State (48-18), which was hosting a super regional for the first time and seeking its first trip to the College World Series since 1999.
Oklahoma State's high-powered offense, which had scored a combined 27 runs in the Cowboys' three regional victories last week, managed just four runs and 12 hits in the two-game series.
"I'm really proud of our kids," OSU coach Josh Holliday said. "That's a tough one to swallow. I'm not ready to deal with this at all. The reality hits you in the face awfully fast."
UC Irvine's experience in close games, now with a 9-8 record in one-run games this year despite losing the previous five, clearly helped during the tense moments of this series.
"There have been so many games where it's been decided by one run and it comes down to making that big play when you need to make it, getting that good at-bat when you need it," said Munoz, whose two-out double to left field brought Chris Rabago home from second in the first inning. "In crunch time, people got to step up and during this tournament, we have.
"Hopefully, we can keep the momentum rolling into Omaha."
After UC Irvine went up 1-0, both teams squandered opportunities over the next several innings, as each left seven men on base through six, including two innings with men on third for each. The Cowboys ended up stranding at least one runner in each of the first six innings.