Beau Amaral in the ninth inning was one of many Bruins left on base Friday night (Photo Credit: Official Site)
Unfortunately for the Bruins, runners left on base in key opportunities has cost them versus Cal St. Fullerton in the postseason before. It got them in 2007 and again in 2008. It hasn't eliminated them in 2010, but it has them on the brink after lost opportunities dealt them a 4-3 loss before 2,077 fans in the Super Regional opener at Jackie Robinson Stadium. What was once a weekend in which they had to win two of three, UCLA now has to win two of two if they want their season to continue on top the College World Series in Omaha. A loss tomorrow or on Sunday and the season will come to an end.
For seven innings, Fullerton starting pitcher Noe Ramirez stifled the UCLA attack. It wasn't until the start of the eighth inning that the Bruins were able to get to him and then they pushed the Titans' bullpen. In the end, it wasn't enough because of their inability to bring the runners in they had on the bases. Blair Dunlap and Tyler Rahmatulla each went 2-5 for the home team, the only two Bruins with multiple hits on the day. The hole in the Bruin order came right in the middle, where their four, five, six and seven hitter combined to go 3-16 on the night.
On the mound, it was a battle for starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. Clearly lacking his best command, the sophomore found himself behind in the count too often after mowing through the Titans the first time through the order. After that, the Titans made him work, but on a night in which he did not have his best stuff, Cole kept the Bruins in the game. The right-hander allowed four runs on five hits while striking out seven in 6.2 innings and picked up the loss. Erik Goeddel and Matt Grace combined to throw 2.1 hit-less innings out of the UCLA bullpen to give the offense a chance at the comeback that just fell short.
Starting with the first pitch, it looked as if things might go UCLA's way. Beau Amaral hit the first pitch he saw to left for a lead off double in the first. After an out, Rahmatulla roped a double to the wall in right field to plate Amaral for a 1-0 Bruin lead. The next two batters struck out though, ending the inning and starting a night in which 16 Bruins would go down on strikes.
Singles and stolen bags in both the second and third innings gave UCLA chances to stretch the lead, but both were left on base.
The third inning was filled with incredible UCLA defense. The frame started with Niko Gallego picking the ball up off a tough hop at short for the inning's first out. The next batter ripped a line drive to left center, sending Amaral from his spot in right center all the way across center field before he completely extended to make a phenomenal catch. The next batter hit a chopper to second base that Rahmatulla charged and picked up on a short hop before throwing to first fir the final out of the inning.
In the fourth inning, Cole's lack of control got to him, but he didn't get much help from his teammates. A walk and hit by pitch put Cole in a bind then a blooper to right fell for a single after Brett Krill came charging in and dropped what looked like would be a sliding catch. A hard line drive to left followed for a two-RBI single, but a ground out got the Bruins their first out. The next batter flied to short center and Amaral made the catch, but his throw to the plate was short and off line, allowing the Titans to score for a 3-1 edge.
That 3-1 lead became a 4-1 lead an inning later when Christian Colon turned on the first pitch he saw and just kept it inside the left field foul pole for a solo home run, his 17th of the season.
Just as was the case in the second and third innings, UCLA got a single and stolen base in the sixth, but again he was left in scoring position.
An inning later, UCLA was presented a golden chance to put big numbers on the scoreboard, but they couldn't capitalize. A single, error and walk loaded the bags for the Bruins with nobody out, but consecutive strike outs followed and the once promising inning looked nothing of the sort. With two outs, Dunlap squared a pitch up and hit a lard line drive that looked destined for the gap in left center, but Colon leaped and snagged the liner for the inning's final out.
Finally in the eighth, UCLA cut into the Titan lead, even if it took some help. Rahmatulla doubled to start the inning and took third on a wayward throw. Following an out and hit by pitch, the Bruins had runners at the corners when Jeff Gelalich hit a comebacker to the pitcher. The pitcher hesitated then threw home where he would have had Rahmatulla, but the throw was wild. Rahmatulla scored on the play and the runners moved to second and third. Following another strike out in a key situation, Gallego singled to shortstop, scoring a run to cut the deficit to just 4-3. Marc Navarro pinch hit with the tying run at third, but he popped the first pitch he saw up to shortstop.
A walk by Amaral and single by Dunlap gave UCLA another chance in the ninth. On a ball in the dirt, Amaral showed smart aggressive base running and took third base. Shortly after, the aggressive base running wasn't so smart when Dunlap got picked off of first for the inning's first out. Rahmatulla then struck out and Chris Giovinazzo grounded out as the tying run was left at third yet again.
With their backs against the wall, UCLA will look to avoid elimination in tomorrow's game two of the Super Regionals at 4 pm PDT. The contest, at Jackie Robinson Stadium, will either send Fullerton to the College World Series or force a deciding third game on Sunday. Trevor Bauer (10-3, 2.72 ERA) will take to the mound for the Bruins versus Daniel Renken (12-2, 3.95 ERA) for the Titans.