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UCLA Bruins Make LMU Lions Sleep Tonight, 6-3, to Advance to Super Regionals

With the win, the Bruins will host the Michigan Wolverines this weekend in the Super Regional.

The Bruins won tonight’s elimination game over Loyola Marymount, 6-3, to advance to the Super Regionals against Michigan.
Don Liebig/

Tonight, in Game 7 of the Los Angeles Regional, a winner-take-all affair with a date versus Michigan in the Super Regional on the line, the UCLA Bruins baseball team (51-9) fought off a tough opponent in the Loyola Marymount Lions (34-25), winning by the score of 6-3. It wasn’t pretty and LMU gave the Bruins all that they could handle but, ultimately, UCLA got the job done. Now, UCLA will host a Super Regional this weekend, hosting the Michigan Wolverines.

UCLA got bad news before the game. Sophomore lead-off hitter Garrett Mitchell, who has been tearing it up, was unavailable to the Bruins due to illness.

Head Coach John Savage tabbed freshman Felix Rubi, who threw three innings and earned the victory versus Baylor yesterday, to take the mound for the Bruins. Things didn’t start well.

Rubi walked the lead-off batter and then Michael Toglia couldn’t handle a hard hit ball, allowing the runners to reach second and third with no outs. E3. A sacrifice fly made the score 1-0. Then, another hard hit ball was smashed to Toglia and, once again, he couldn’t handle it, scoring another LMU run. Another E3. 2-0, Lions. Loyola Marymount loaded the bases with two outs and could have done a lot more damage, but Rubi induced a lazy fly ball to end the inning. Both runs were unearned.

UCLA would answer in the bottom of the first. With one out, Ryan Kreidler singled, followed by a double to right center by Chase Strumpf. Jake Pries hit a sac fly to right field, scoring Kreidler. The throw to the plate was cut off, with the LMU player trying to catch Strumpf advancing to third. His throw was wild, rolling to the wall in left field foul territory, allowing Strumpf to score and evening the ledger at 2-2.

LMU started off the top of the second with back-to-back singles. A fielder’s choice put runners at the corners with one out. With that, Coach Savage wasted no time and made a pitching change, turning to Michael Townsend. Townsend walked the next batter, loading the bases and bringing the dangerous Trevin Esquerra to the plate. Things looked bleak, but Townsend induced Esquerra to ground into a gorgeous 4-6-3 double play to end the threat unscathed. Whew. Bruins fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.

But it didn’t get easier for UCLA. After the Bruins went down in order in the bottom of the second inning, LMU started the top of the third with a double to right center. It was the third time in three innings that the Lions got their lead-off hitter on board. Townsend responded nicely, first, with a strikeout, then, with a weak grounder to first, and. finally. with a pop-out to second to end the threat with a runner on third.

UCLA was playing with fire, but it was still tied, 2-2.

Kreidler started the bottom of the third with a bang, lining a ball between short and second base, never slowing down and legging out a double. After Strumpf struck out looking on a wicked curve, Pries legged out an infield single with the throw barely pulling the first baseman’s foot off the bag.

That put runners on the corners with one out with Toglia coming to the plate. Toglia drove the ball to deep center and it stayed in the park to be caught, but it was deep enough to score Kreidler, who tagged from third base. UCLA had its first lead of the game, 3-2.

Townsend settled down in the fourth inning, retiring the side in order. In the bottom half of the frame, LMU brought in its Friday ace Codie Paiva. Paiva got the first two outs, but Jeremy Ydens just missed a home run by about a foot and a half, settling for a two-out double. Paiva then hit Kreidler with his first pitch, bringing Strumpf to the plate.

Chase delivered. Again. Just like yesterday. Strumpf unloaded another three-run home run well over the left field fence, extending the lead to 6-2. In a strange coincidence, he hit the bomb minutes after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs. Yes, the MLB Draft was going on during the game.

In the top of the fifth inning, freshman Jack Filby took over on the mound for the Bruins. Filby allowed a lead-off double and then the next batter hit a ground ball to Strumpf, who could not handle it as it dribbled into shallow right field for a run-scoring error. Filby then struck out Tommy Delgado looking, got a fly-out to center, and struck out Alex Lambeau looking to end the inning with UCLA leading, 6-3.

After UCLA went down in order in the bottom of the fifth inning, senior right hander Nate Hadley took the hill for the Bruins in the top of the sixth. Hadley returned the favor, retiring the Lions in order, punctuated by a beautiful curve ball that caught Cooper Uhl looking for the second out.

UCLA threatened in the bottom of the sixth, but did not score. With one out, Matt McLain was hit by a pitch and he advanced to third on a Kreidler single with two outs, the UCLA shortstop’s third hit of the game. With Strumpf coming to the plate, Loyola Marymount turned to its closer Nick Frasso, who overpowered the Bruins to earn the save on Saturday night, to try to stave off the UCLA threat.

Unfortunately for Bruin fans, it worked. After Kreidler stole second without a throw, Strumpf walked, loading the bases for Jake Pries. Frasso ran the count to 3-2, but then got Pries to pop-out to the catcher in foul territory behind the plate.

UCLA’s Friday starter Ryan Garcia, who was also drafted during the game and who threw 813 innings on Friday, came into the game to pitch in the seventh. After retiring the first batter, Garcia conceded a single to left, bringing Esquerra to the plate. Garcia struck him out swinging and then managed to end the inning with a ground out.

Frasso retired the Bruins in order in the bottom half of the frame, including swinging strike outs of Toglia and Stronach, keeping Loyola Marymount in the game. But Garcia came back out for the top of the eighth inning and retired the Lions in order, blowing away Dylan Hirsch with a three-pitch, inning-ending swinging strike out. UCLA didn’t fare any better in its half of the eighth inning, as Frasso again retired the side in order, bringing on the ninth inning.

Holden Powell, UCLA’s outstanding closer, came on to pitch the ninth with a three-run cushion. Cold as ice, Powell struck out the first batter he faced swinging, painted the outside corner with a curve ball to strike out the second batter looking, and recorded the final out on a high chopper to Kreidler who threw out the batter, ending the game, 6-3.

As a fan, it felt like a colassal struggle, but the Bruins did it. They came out of the losers’ bracket and now will face Michigan this weekend in the Super Regional, also at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

That’s all for now.

Go Bruins!