The UCLA Bruin baseball team (30-26) could not quite get over the hump yesterday against Texas, falling to the Longhorns, 3-2, in the first game of the Long Beach Regional. UCLA is now in a win-or-go-home situation, and it must beat a team that it has been unable to beat so far this season, San Diego State. First pitch in today's game is at 1 p.m. PT.
Yesterday’s game was one that started out as a pitchers’ duel, but then had some drama late.
UCLA’s Griffin Canning (7-4, 2.34 ERA), who look the loss, had not surrendered a hit through three and 2⁄3 innings, when Kody Clemens, one of Roger Clemens’ sons and UT’s best hitter, launched a solo home run over the right field wall at Blair Field, giving Texas a 1-0 lead.
The way the teams were playing and the pitchers were pitching, it seemed like that the 1-0 score would hold up as both teams made it to the 7th inning without further scoring. Then things got interesting.
UCLA had an opportunity in the top of the 7th inning, on a Sean Bouchard hit-by-pitch and a Kyle Cuellar single. That put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and brought Texas Head Coach David Pierce to the mound to calm down UT’s starter, Nolan Kingham (10-4).
It worked. Kingham, who would go on to get the win, struck out Michael Toglia swinging, induced Chase Strumpf to pop out, and got pinch hitter Jack Stronach to ground out.
It was a case of UCLA’s lack of timely hitting, which has plagued UCLA at times this season, as neither Toglia nor Stronach was able to drive in the tying run in the 7th, but both would get hits in their next at bats. Conversely, Texas got the timely hits, scoring all three of their runs with two outs.
UCLA gifted Texas an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th, as the Bruins uncharacteristically committed three (!) errors in one inning. Texas led off the inning with a knuckleball line drive off the bat of Travis Jones that should have been caught—but wasn’t—by UCLA shortstop, Ryan Kreidler. To his credit, Kreidler made several sparkling plays earlier in the game and would later hit a home run, but this error deeply hurt the Bruins.
After Canning struck out Clemens for the first out of the inning, the ‘Horns put on the steal for Jones. Daniel Rosica’s throw had enough juice to beat Jones, but was off target and low to the first base side, caroming off the sliding Jones and into center field, allowing Jones to take third base with one out. Error Rosica.
After UCLA recorded out number two on an infield pop fly, Texas capitalized on UCLA’s two errors earlier in the inning, when Bret Boswell singling to left field, pushing the lead to 2-0. UCLA’s third error, an errant pick off throw by Canning, did not lead to further damage, as Canning induced a pop fly out in foul territory to end the inning.
UCLA clawed one back in the top of the 8th, as Ryan Kreidler launched the first pitch of the inning over the left field wall in a no-doubt-about-it home run, cutting Texas’s lead to 2-1. Daniel Amaral’s two out double put the tying run on second base and caused the Longhorns to bring in their closer, Beau Ridgeway. Once again, however, UCLA could not get the two out hit, as Sean Bouchard struck out swinging on a fastball, high and inside.
Texas added another run in the bottom of the eighth. With two outs, Canning allowed, in succession, a walk, a single, and an RBI double, extending UT’s lead to 3-1. That would be it for Canning, as UCLA lefty, Nick Shielder, came on to record the third out.
In the top of the 9th, with UCLA needing two runs to tie, Toglia stroked a one out double to right center field. After Strumpf walked, Stronach singled up the middle, scoring Toglia and making the score 3-2. UCLA had runners on first and second (the go ahead and tying runs, respectively) with only one out.
Alas, the lack of timely hitting killed the Bruins again. First, Kreidler flied out to shallow right field, causing the runners stay put. Down to the last out, Coach Savage pinch hit with Jake Pries. Pries was first pitch swinging, and meekly popped out to second base on a ball that didn’t make it to the dirt of the infield. Game over.
Let me be clear: Texas is not a more talented team than UCLA. They just got the hits when it mattered, scoring all three runs with two outs. Conversely, UCLA had its chances, but could not get the timely hits when the game was on the line. UCLA actually outhit Texas, eight to six. UCLA’s uncharacteristic errors, all in one inning, also hurt the Bruins.
So now UCLA finds itself in the losers’ bracket, needing to win four straight games to get out of Long Beach alive. It starts (and could end) with the Aztecs, who were mauled by Long Beach State yesterday, 6-0. SDSU beat the Bruins in both of their games this season, but those were midweek games, which are completely different from a pitching perspective, as teams are experimenting or, at best, throwing their #4 starters.
Speaking of pitching, I could see UCLA Head Coach John Savage start Jon Olsen (7-1, 2.91 ERA), UCLA’s usual Sunday starter, over Jake Bird (5-4, 3.00 ERA), today in this must win situation. Olsen has been the better pitcher of late. I would be surprised if SDSU counters with anyone other than Dominic Purpura (6-3, 4.36 ERA) in today’s game.
First pitch is at 1 p.m. PT. If you live in Southern California, try to make it out to Blair Field on this glorious day. Although the game is not televised, you can live stream video via ESPN3/WatchESPN. Live streaming audio with John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm is always a great option. Or you can follow along with live stats.
It is win or die for the UCLA Bruin Baseball team. This is your game thread.