-Bumped. BN Eds.
UCLA came up short in a slugfest on Sunday, losing 8-5, and dropping the weekend series to Long Beach State, two games to one. The Bruins fall to 18-12 on the season, and have now dropped two weekend series in a row (Long Beach State and Arizona State). That makes three series losses on the season (Cal Poly early this year was the other series loss). Three series losses matches the total for last year's national champions. Time to right the ship.
The weekend got off to a solid start Friday night, with UCLA ace James Kaprielian on the mound in Long Beach. Kaprielian was named the top collegiate prospect in the 2015 draft by Baseball America before the season started, and he has been steady this year. He continued his domination on Friday, shutting out the Dirtbags on 3 hits over 9 innings with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. He was so dominant that no Long Beach runner even reached 2nd base while James was pitching. Unfortunately, for Kaprielian, this did not result in a victory, as UCLA's offense was also held scoreless over 9 innings. Pretty typical Friday night baseball for the Bruins. UCLA finally broke through in the 11th inning with classic small ball: Peterson was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, took 3rd on a passed ball, and scored on a throwing error by the catcher. David Berg came on in relief of Nick Kern, who took over for Kaprielian in the 10th. Berg enlivened the proceedings by allowing back-to-back singles with 2 outs, but then got a strikeout to earn his 9th save of the season. Nick Kern, a freshman from Brea, picked up his first collegiate victory (and here's to many more). Here is the box score for those interested in further details.
That ended the highlights for the Bruins this weekend. But, in the interest of full disclosure, here is how the rest of the weekend unfolded. The teams moved to Jackie Robinson for the Saturday game, with Grant Watson on the mound for the Bruins. Watson got into trouble early, giving up 2 runs in the top of the 1st. He then settled down and allowed only 1 more run, while working 6 innings total. Giving up 3 runs in 6 innings as the Saturday starter is certainly not lights out, but it should have been enough to keep the Bruins in the hunt. But on this day, the bats remained quiet. Max Schuh pitched a scoreless 7th and Grant Dyer followed up with a scoreless 8th. Jake Ehret pitched the 9th, and gave up the 4th run of the afternoon to Long Beach State. The Bruins meanwhile had no answers on offense, and went down to defeat 4-0. Grant Watson took the defeat, as his record fell to 4-3. The Bruins had scored 1 run in 20 innings, but had split the 1st 2 games thanks to the heroics of Kaprielian, Kern and Berg. Here is the Saturday box score for those interested in the gory details.
The Bruins should have felt confident going into Sunday's game, as Cody Poteet took the mound in Long Beach for his regular Sunday start, while the Dirtbags were throwing a starter with little starting experience as a result of having to shuffle their starting rotation. Further adding to the confidence was the fact that the Bruins were 5-2 in Sunday games, while Long Beach St was 1-5.
But, like Grant Watson the day before, Cody Poteet was not sharp at the outset. And like Watsont, he gave up 2 runs in the 1st inning to put the Bruins in a hole. The Bruins offense finally woke up though and smoked Long Beach for 5 runs in the top of the 2nd. Freshman Dominic Miroglio, making only his 2nd start of the season, got the Bruins on the board with a sac fly. Trent Chatterton followed with a safety squeeze to bring in Luke Persico and tie the game at 2-2. Pat Gallagher drove in the 3rd run. Christoph Bono was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in run number 4. And Ty Moore walked with the bases loaded to knock in the 5th run of the inning. This led to the exit of the Long Beach starting pitcher, but unfortunately, the Bruins offense left the game at that point as well.
Cody Poteet could not get any runners out in the bottom of the 2nd, after the Bruins had put up the 5 spot in the top of the inning. 4 straight singles made the score 5-3, with the bases loaded and nobody out. And with that, Poteet's day was done as Scott Burke came on in relief. Burke looked like he might get out of the jam he inherited by getting the 1st 2 batters out, but a 2 out, 2 run single and an unearned run on an error by Burke allowed Long Beach to reclaim the lead 6-5 after 2 innings. Burke gave up another run in the bottom of the 3rd, and was removed in favor of Nick Kern. Kern gave up a run in the bottom of the 4th to increase the Long Beach lead to 8-5. Kern allowed no further runs on his watch. Max Schuh pitched two scoreless innings, and David Berg threw a scoreless 8th. But the Bruin offense had no answer for the Long Beach pen, and the game ended with the Bruins on the losing end 8-5. Cody Poteet took the loss to even his record at 2-2. The morbidly curious can check out the Sunday box score here
So, where do we go from here? Fullerton, it turns out. The first of the two game home and away series with the Titans takes place on Tuesday night, first pitch at 6 p.m. PST. Cal State Fullerton is not the absolutely dominant team of years past, with a record of 16-11. However, this is a crucial game for both teams, in terms of setting themselves up for postseason placement.
After Tuesday's game, the Bruins travel to Tucson for a three game weekend series against Arizona. The Wildcats are currently tied with Southern Cal for 7th place at 4-8 in the conference. This is a must-win series for UCLA. A sweep would be even nicer.
Thanks to a three run walk-off double in the bottom of the 10th, Washington shocked Oregon to take their weekend series with a 5-4 win on Sunday. The Huskies remain in 1st place with a 10-2 record. Oregon State swept Stanford at home to move to 9-3, 1 game behind the Huskies. UCLA is tied for 3rd at 6-3 with Washington State. Washington State finished a three game sweep at home over Berkeley.
The Bruins still have Washington and Oregon State in their future, so we can determine our own fate to a large extent. But we can't fall further behind by dropping a series to a lower team, even on the road.
It is time to get the ship going in the right direction. No time like the present.