-Bumped. BN Eds.
UCLA travelled to Tucson this weekend to face an eminently beatable Arizona squad, which was sitting below .500 overall and in conference play coming into the 3 game series. UCLA was on a skid of its own, having dropped 2 straight weekend series.
In the end, UCLA remained in their holding pattern, dropping 2 out of 3. The frustrating sequence, which has been repeated 3 times, is as follows- win Friday night behind James Kaprielian, lose on Saturday and Sunday.
Kaprlelian again proved why he is one of the top prospects in the 2015 draft, blanking the Wildcats on Friday night for 7 innings on 4 hits and a walk. Max Schuh and Nick Kern worked an inning each to preserve the shutout. Meanwhile, the Bruin bats woke up big time, as UCLA scored 1 in the 3rd, 3 in the 4th, 1 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th, and 1 in the 8th, for an easy 8-0 victory. Offensive stars included Ty Moore (3 hits, 2 runs scored), Trent Chatterton (2 hits, 3 RBI's), Brian Carroll (2 hits, 2 RBI's), Shane Zeile (2 hits, 2 runs scored), and Pat Gallagher (2 hits, 1 run scored).
Saturday night saw Grant Watson fall victim to another in a series of poor innings early. In his previous start, he had allowed 2 runs in the top of the 1st, to put the Bruins in the hole from the outset. In the start before that, he gave up 5 runs in the top of the 4th. This time, a 3 run bottom of the 2nd spelled defeat for Watson and the Bruins. Watson settled down after that and gave up no more runs. But on the offensive side of the ledgers, the Bruins could only score 2 runs, and UCLA lost 3-2.
Yesterday afternoon, UCLA scored 4 runs in the 1st 3 innings, and was leading 4-2 going to the bottom of the 4th. The big blows for the Bruins were struck by Christoph Bono (RBI single and sac fly), Luke Persico (RBI single), and Brian Carroll (RBI single). Unfortunately, the wheels came off in the bottom of the 4th. Poteet started the inning but did not record any outs. Grant Dyer came on in relief and recorded only one out on a sac bunt, allowing a hit and 2 walks. Max Schuh then worked the remainder of the inning. When the dust had settled, the Bruins were behind 5-4, and never led again.
The Bruins did tie the score in the top of the 5th on a Kevin Williams RBI single. Both teams went deep into their bullpens. David Berg, who had not worked in either of the 1st 2 games, came on to put out a rally in the bottom of the 6th. He pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Meanwhile, the UCLA offense went cold. So we headed to the bottom of the 9th with the score tied 5-5. Scott Burke, the 6th Bruin pitcher, allowed a leadoff double to the only batter he faced. Jake Ehret struck out the first batter he faced, but then gave up a single. That put runners on the corners with 1 out. The next batter hit a slow roller to 3rd, and when the runner beat the throw home, the ballgame was over.
This series continued two disturbing trends (three, if you count losing, period). First, with 2 one run losses, the Bruins fall to 7-7 in one run games, including 3 straight losses. Last year, the Bruins went 17-2. Winning 89% of your one run games obviously doesn't happen every year. But only playing .500 ball in one run games won't cut it.
Even more disturbing, with the 6-5 loss yesterday, the Bruins fall to 11-5 in games where the Bruins score at least 5 runs. Last year, the Bruins were 30-1 in these situations. We are only in mid-April, and this year's team has already lost 4 more times than last year's team did all season in games where we score at least 5 runs.
Coming into the season, the offense was a big concern, particularly with the injuries to Filia, Kramer and Williams. The run production is down, but the Bruins have scored at least 5 runs 16 times in 34 games. That is not all that dissimilar on a percentage basis from last year's team, which scored at least 5 runs 31 times in 66 games. But the pitching and fielding have not come through this year.
With this weekend's results, UCLA falls to 19-15. The 7-5 conference record puts UCLA into a 3 way tie for 4th. #7 ranked Washington is in 1st place at 12-3, after taking 2 of 3 at home against Stanford. #5 Oregon State is in 2nd place at 11-4, 1 game back, after taking 2 of 3 on the road at Washington State. Arizona State is in 3rd place at 9-6, 3 games back, after taking 2 of 3 at home against Cal. UCLA, #23 Oregon and Washington State come next at 7-5, 3.5 games back.
UCLA has a chance to make up some ground this weekend, as we play a Thursday-Saturday series in Salt Lake City against bottom of the heap Utah. But every game starts 0-0 in the top of the 1st, and this year's team can certainly not take anything for granted. We need to win 1 run games, we need to win games where we score at least 5 runs, we need to win period.
Go Bruins !!