The season came to a close for the UCLA Bruin baseball team last night. After falling into the loser’s bracket of the Minneapolis Regional care of an extra inning loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday, UCLA needed to beat Gonzaga and Minnesota yesterday in order to set up a winner-take-all meeting against Minnesota today.
It didn’t happen.
Although the Bruins were able to eliminate Gonzaga by the score of 10-4, UCLA ran out gas against a very good Golden Gopher squad, falling 13-8 in the nightcap. While the Bruins head home, Minnesota (44-13), winners of their last 13 games, moves on to the Corvallis Super Regional versus the Oregon State Beavers, in what figures to be an outstanding match up.
UCLA v. Gonzaga
In the first game yesterday, the Bruins staked starting pitcher Ryan Garcia to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, care of a Jake Pries single that scored Kevin Kendall and Chase Strumpf. UCLA would add another run in the third inning on a Michael Toglia RBI double, and two more in the fifth frame, on a Daniel Amaral single that scored Strumpf and Toglia.
After Gonzaga clawed back a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, Garrett Mitchell tripled with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning, extending UCLA’s lead to 8-1.
Although the Zags would plate three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, cutting the lead to 8-4, UCLA would score two more in the ninth frame, on a two-run double by Jack Stronach, resulting in the 10-4 final score.
Garcia (8-1, 2.23 ERA), who had a fine season, earned the win for the Bruins, pitching seven and 1⁄3 innings, allowing three runs (only one earned) on four hits. Mac Lardner (7-4) took the loss for Gonzaga.
As a result of the win, UCLA stayed alive to play another game on Sunday, this time against Minnesota.
UCLA v. Minnesota
In UCLA’s second game of the day, both teams came out of the gate scoring runs, with the Bruins and the Gophers scoring runs in the first, second, and third innings. Although UCLA had 1-0, 2-1, and 5-4 leads, after the top of the first, second, and third innings, respectively, Minnesota kept on answering in the bottom halves of the innings, ultimately taking a 7-5 lead after three frames.
After UCLA failed to score in the fourth inning, the Golden Gophers blew the game open with a six-run fourth, extending the lead to what would be an insurmountable 13-5 cushion. The Bruins would score a single run in the 5th inning and two more runs in their last at-bat, but it would not be enough to avoid elimination at the hands of Minnesota.
The injuries to Jon Olsen and the aborted comeback of Kyle Molnar, who only pitched one inning this season, really hurt UCLA, and the lack of pitching depth was evident in yesterday’s game versus Minnesota (as well as most of the midweek games after Olsen went down, forcing Garcia into the Sunday starter role). The Bruins just didn’t have the horses to survive the loser’s bracket.
Jack Ralston (1-4, 6.44 ERA) started the game for the Bruins and was shelled, throwing 1 and 1⁄3 innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on three hits (including a three-run home run). Ralston also walked two and had a wild pitch.
Ralston’s relief, Nick Scheidler, did not fare much better, throwing 1 and 1⁄3 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on two hits. Scheidler (1-1, 3.97 ERA) took the loss, his first of the season.
Scheidler’s relief, freshman Michael Townsend (0-0, 9.00 ERA), making only the eighth appearance of his college career, was clearly not ready for the big stage, throwing 2⁄3 of an inning and surrendering six runs (five earned), on three hits, two walks and a hit batter.
Garrett Barker, Holden Powell, and Nathan Hadley, to their credit, combined to finish the last four and 2⁄3 innings without allowing a run, but the damage was already done.
The Bruins end the season with a record of 38-21, a seven game improvement over UCLA’s 30-27 record in 2017.
Check Bruins Nation later this week for a postmortem on UCLA’s season, including which players exceeded expectations, which players did not, and whether the 2018 iteration of UCLA Baseball can be considered to be a “success.”