Mitchell Beacom and Brandon Lodge were great out of the bullpen, but the offense and defense fell short when needed (Photo Credit: Official Site)
Midweek games are often overlooked. Even the staunchest of supporters of midweek games will not put Tuesday or Wednesday games on par with weekend series. Besides the fact that conference games are played on weekends, weekend series gives a better indication of a team's quality and when the selection committee looks at teams in May they look at what series' a team has won with weekend series topping the list. When you've gotten off to a slow start and are trying to boost a resume, especially a RPI that doesn't discriminate against weekend games, midweek games take on more importance though. Unfortunately, UCLA dropped their midweek game on Tuesday night, blowing a ninth inning lead for the second consecutive game before falling to UC Riverside, 5-4, that leaves the Bruins just 14-10 on the season.
As has been the case all season long, the offense just wasn't there to pick up the pitching. That's not to say the pitching was fantastic, but the pitching was good enough to win the game. It didn't get the necessary offense to win though and in the ninth inning it didn't get the defense it needed either. Beau Amaral and Cody Keefer were the only Bruins to pick up multiple hits, although to the team's credit, all but one position player picked up one base knock in the game. Amaral and Keefer each added a run to their multi-hit games, while Amaral also drove a run in.
UCLA is still trying to figure out its midweek pitching situation because as is the case whenever Gerrit Cole or Trevor Bauer isn't pitching, it's just a whole lot of inexperience for the Bruins. Zack Weiss made his second career start, but the freshman has spent most of the season working out of the bullpen and just isn't conditioned to work extended innings. As a result, Weiss went just three innings, but he was strong in those three innings, allowing just one hit and no runs. Scott Griggs had issues in his inning of relief, allowing two runs and Chase Brewer allowed a run in his 0.1 innings. Dennis Holt retired one batter, but walked three and wasn't strong despite having no runs charged to him. Brandon Lodge did well in 1.1 perfect innings and Mitchell Beacom was perfect in two innings. Nick Vander Tuig blew his second consecutive save thanks to yet another error, but the winning run was all his as he allowed consecutive doubles in his third inning of work to absorb the loss.
It was the Bruins who got off to a rocket of a start, but despite putting the scoreboard to work early on, they were left to wonder if it could have resulted in more. Jeff Gelalich started off the game with a triple and Amaral followed with a single that scored Gelalich to put the Bruins ahead 1-0 a mere two innings into the game. A sacrifice bunt moved Amaral to second, but the Bruins left him on base, stranding a runner in scoring position.
Amaral did his best to ignite a UCLA rally in the third with a one-out double in the third, but once again he was left out on the base paths. A fly ball moved Amaral to third, but he would never move past third so he and the Bruins were left to mull what could have been as the inning came to an end with him still 90 feet away from scoring.
A double by Keefer in the fourth started the inning and when Trevor Brown bunted for a single to follow, UCLA had a legitimate threat going. A walk by Tyler Heineman only added to the pressure on the Highlanders as the Bruins loaded the bases and Adrian Williams made them pay with a single to left that scored Keefer. Gelalich followed with a double play, but it did score Brown to stretch the UCLA lead to 3-0, but it would prove to be a missed opportunity
Weiss was on a pitch limit because he was not conditioned to be a starter. While head coach John Savage hoped he would be the weekday starter all season, some elbow soreness in the preseason put the kibosh on that idea and only recently has he been making the move from bullpen man to starter. When he exited after three innings Riverside took advantage of Griggs, although Griggs didn't do himself nay help. Griggs faced six batters in the fourth inning, his only inning, and he was never ahead in the count when the batter was either retired or reached. With that type of command it is not surprising that a walk was followed by a double on a 2-1 count to score a run. A two-out single on a three-ball count scored another run and through four innings the Bruins were head just 3-2.
Consecutive two-out singles by the Bruins in the fifth gave them a chance to add to their lead and when Keefer stole second they had two men in scoring position. A pop up to the catcher ended that threat though.
The end of that threat came back to haunt UCLA when they lost their lead just a half inning later though. Brewer retired a man, but walked the second man in the inning before being pulled. Holt replaced Brewer and after the first man was retired on a sacrifice bunt he walked three consecutive batters to force a run in before Lodge came in to get UCLA out of the inning.
Despite their inability to throw strikes, UCLA took the lead in the seventh. Amaral started the inning with a walk and a sacrifice bunt moved him to second. That's when Cody Regis laced a single to center that allowed Amaral to score for a 4-3 UCLA lead.
From the fifth through eighth innings, Lodge and Beacom combined to reite 10 consecutive batters so it looked like they were rolling, but the defense bit the pitching in the ninth. Vander Tuig blew a save on Sunday with no earned runs because of two unearned runs and he didn't get much defensive help on Tuesday. The leadoff man reachrf on an error by Regis and a sacrifice bunt moved him to second. A pop up moved UCLA one out away from victory, but a bloop single dropped in center, allowing the tying run to score and send the game to extra innings.
UCLA managed nothing in extra innings and in the bottom of the 11th, Riverside picked up back-to-back RBI double off of Vander Tuig. Those doubles scored the winning run for the Highlanders and ended UCLA's three-game win streak, leaving them to wonder what would have happend had them caught the ball or cashed in on men in scoring position.