Bergman ready for one last run

GLENDALE — As a freshman at UC Irvine in 2007, Christian Bergman was thrown onto the biggest stage as a spot starter in the NCAA Division I College World Series.

Since then, a standout tenure with the Anteaters has seemingly flown by for the St. Francis High graduate, as him and his fellow Irvine seniors are looking for one last run to Omaha, Neb. and the College World Series.

"Having tasted it ... it's one of those things where you want to get back so badly," said Bergman on Monday after it was announced that Irvine would play in the Los Angeles Regional, beginning Friday with a showdown against defending NCAA champion LSU. "Especially for the senior class, it's our last shot to get there."

For Bergman, who's been sensational over his last three starts, and the Anteaters, who are 37-19 and took second in the Big West Conference, it will mark the second consecutive season in which they begin postseason play against the defending NCAA champions. Last year, Irvine faced Fresno State and won that game before losing two straight to Virginia en route to elimination in the Irvine Regional.

This time around, LSU (40-20) also poses added incentive for Irvine.

"We're all actually pretty excited that we get to square off against them right away," said Bergman, who was part of an Irvine squad in 2008 that lost in the Super Regionals to LSU two games to three. "We have some history with them."

As a St. Francis standout, many of Bergman's brightest performances as a Golden Knight came at Jackie Robinson Field. This time around, Irvine will face LSU at 2 p.m. Friday at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium. Host and regional top-seed UCLA (43-13) will play Kent State (39-23) at 6 p.m. later that day. The regional will continue Saturday, Sunday and possibly Monday.

With the return of No. 1 starter Daniel Bibona, it is unclear as to who will start on Friday.

"We haven't talked about what the rotation's gonna be like," Bergman said. "I think it will just be a matter of who matches up better against LSU."

Bergman's matched up well with anyone put in front of him as of late, taking on the No. 1 starter's role in Bibona's absence and producing to the tune of a streak of 24 1/3 scoreless innings.

"I've obviously been really happy with it," said Bergman of his performances. "I can't ask for much better than that.

"Right now is the time to get hot."

In his last start on Friday against Long Beach State, Bergman tossed a seven-hit shutout in a 6-0 win. The victory improved his record to 8-3, as he sports a 3.82 earned-run average over 96 2/3 innings pitched. He's struck out 74 and walked just 15.

For Bergman, the 2006 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year before going on to receive an assortment of accolades in college such as All-Big West and All-American honors, it's been a turnaround season. At the onset of the year, he struggled mightily. His ERA at one point was well past eight and he was pitching out of the bullpen.

"I kinda got off to a rocky start," Bergman said. "I just tried to learn from every bad start. That's the beauty of baseball, you get to wake up every morning and it's a new day."

Also on the horizon for Bergman is the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 7-9.

"It's been pretty much the same, if not more, than last year," said Bergman of the attention from pro scouts he's received. "It should be relatively quick and painless. Right now, I'm not thinking too much about that, though."

No, right now is all about his last days playing for UC Irvine and making those final days last as long as possible.

"It's pretty cliché when you talk about playing every game like it's your last, but, at least in college, my days are numbered right now," he said, "so you can bet when I play, I'm gonna be playing like it's my last game cause it very well could be."

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