The UCLA Bruins baseball team (43-15) suffered a major setback in their quest to return to the College World Series, dropping their contest last night to the Maryland Terrapins, 4-1. In order to advance to the Super Regional, UCLA would need to beat Cal State Bakersfield today (at 4 p.m. PT), then beat Maryland in a second game today, and then beat Maryland again tomorrow. This is a tall task, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.
If UCLA is to have a chance to move on, it will need to get better offense of production out of its lineup. The Bruins only scratched out five hits last night, and was not able to even get a runner on base in its last 14 at bats. The Bruins never looked comfortable at the plate all night long, and its left-handed batters repeatedly tried to pull pitches that they should have been trying to spray to the opposite field. This resulted in multiple week ground balls to the right side of the infield.
The Bruins struck first in the top of the first inning, on the strength of a Kevin Kramer single, a Ty Moore hit by pitch, a Luke Persico single, and a Chris Keck sacrifice fly. Keck, for the record, did not appear to be his usual self and, as confirmed by Head Coach John Savage, was suffering from a bit of stomach flu.
UCLA had a chance do more damage in the second inning, as Christoph Bono doubled with two outs. Brett Stephens singled up the middle, but the Maryland center-fielder, LaMonte Wade, gunned Bono down at the plate for the third out on a beautiful throw and a great job by the catcher to block the plate. Wade has shown his defensive skills in the LA regional, robbing Ole Miss of a home run in the opening game. It was a bang-bang play, and Bono might have gotten his toe on the plate through the catcher’s legs, but the call went in Maryland’s favor. Bono could have put the Bruins up, 2-0, which might’ve changed complexion of the game.
Maryland scored its four runs early, with two in the second and two in the third. In the second inning, with two runners on and two outs, Tim Lewis hit a bloop fly ball down the left-field line, just past the outstretched glove of Bruin leftfielder, Brett Stephens, who was attempting to make a diving catch. Both runners scored and Lewis ended up on third with a “Texas League” triple. Again, if Stephens makes that play, no runs score and it may have changed the entire complexion of the game.
In the bottom of the third inning (Maryland was the designated “home” team last night), UCLA starter, Grant Watson, surrendered a leadoff home run to Wade (the guy has skills with the bat as well), to extend Maryland’s lead to 3-1. Kevin Smith then doubled, moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a ground ball to second base, making the score 4-1, Terps.
Watson, who took the loss, settled down after that and did not concede any more runs in his 6 and 2/3 innings. Tucker Forbes came in and pitched well in 1 and 1/3 innings, striking out three, but the damage was already done and UCLA could not get its bats going in the late innings. The Bruins’ last baserunner was courtesy of a one-out single by Ty Moore in the fifth inning.
Maryland’s bullpen did a great impression of UCLA’s bullpen, shutting down the Bruins in the late innings, as UCLA fans so often witnessed from UCLA’s bullpen this season in the form of Forbes, Grant Dyer, and Dave Berg. Robert Galligan, who pitched 4 and 1/3 innings for Maryland, got the win, surrendering only the aforementioned Ty Moore single and a walk during his outing. Maryland’s star closer, Kevin Mooney, came in to pitch a perfect ninth inning, striking out Darrell Miller, Jr. looking and Kort Peterson looking, before inducing Trent Chatterton to fly out to right to end the game.
Moving forward, starting at 4 p.m., PT, today, UCLA needs to rebound against the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners in order to earn its chance to try to take two games from Maryland. Griffin Canning is apparently unavailable, so the Bruins will look to either Cody Poteet or Hunter Virant to take the mound. Check back later today for the UCLA versus Cal State Bakersfield preview and open thread for all of the day’s L.A. Regional action.