The UCLA Bruins baseball team (51-10), which looked overmatched at the plate for eight innings, made it close in the bottom of the ninth inning, but couldn’t overcome a 3-0 deficit, scoring only two runs in the final frame, and they fell by the score of 3-2. UCLA had the tying run on third with one out in the form of Kevin Kendall, but could not push him across to even the ledger.
The Bruins now need to win tomorrow to force a winner-take-all Sunday game.
The game started slowly from an offensive standpoint for both sides as each starting pitcher, UCLA’s Ryan Garcia and Michigan’s Kauffmann, retired the sides in order in the first inning. Garcia had two strikeouts to Kauffmann’s one.
Garcia did the same in the second inning—retired the side in order, that is, this time on two pop-ups and a ground-out. Then, Kauffmann followed suit. So through two innings, both pitchers were perfect.
But Michigan would strike in the top of the third inning. Shortstop Jack Blomgren led off the inning with a single to center. Michigan could not successfully bunt him to second as Garcia gunned him down but the Bruins could not turn the double play. After a fly-out, Garcia allowed a double just fair down the left field line and, with runners on second and third, Jessie Franklin delivered a two-out, two RBI single to right field, putting the Wolverines up 2-0.
UCLA could not answer in the bottom half of the frame. Jeremy Ydens struck out swinging, Noah Cardenas was thrown out on a dazzling play by Blomgren on a grounder to the hole between short and third, and Matt McLain struck out swinging.
Kauffmann had four strikeouts and no base runners through three innings and was outdueling Garcia, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.
The Bruins found themselves in hot water again in the fourth inning. After retiring the first batter, Garcia allowed a walk to Blake Nelson on a 3-2 pitch and then threw the ball away on a pick-off move, allowing Nelson to advance all the way to third. Garcia, however, recovered to strikeout the next two batters swinging, ending the inning without any damage.
Garrett Mitchell walked on four straight pitches to start the bottom of the fourth. Ryan Kreidler then bunted Mitchell over to second base, almost beating out the throw to first. Strumpf just missed one, flying out to deep center field while allowing Mitchell to tag and advance to third with two outs. But Michael Toglia sharply grounded down the line to first, where it was played perfectly by first baseman Jimmy Kerr to record the third out unassisted.
In the fifth, Ryan Garcia settled down and retired the Wolverines in order on only nine pitches. In the bottom half of the frame, Jake Pries picked up UCLA’s first hit of the game, a single to left field with no outs. Jack Stronach followed with a strikeout, but UCLA got a bit of luck on a soft fly ball to shallow center where the Michigan right fielder Jordan Brewer, failed to glove the ball, allowing runners on first and second with one out. The Bruins did not capitalize as UCLA’s next batter Noah Cardenas grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Garcia was excellent again in the sixth inning, retiring the side in order and striking out the first two batters, bringing his strikeout total to eight in the game. He just needed some run support to overcome the 2-0 deficit. He wouldn’t get it in the bottom half of the sixth as Kauffmann, once again, retired the side in order on three ground outs to the left side of the infield and appeared effortless in doing so.
Garcia, once again, retired the side in order in the seventh inning, but the Bruins were down 2-0 and had only one hit going into the seventh inning stretch. Toglia reached on an error with one out in the bottom of the seventh. But, on a hit and run, Jake Pries struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch that looked low and out of the zone and Toglia thought it was a walk, cruising into second without a slide, where he was easily tagged out, ending the inning. He would have made it had he been hustling and slid. Frankly, the baserunning gaffe by the usually fundamentally sound Bruins was shocking and highlighted just how out of sync UCLA was offensively.
Garcia allowed a one-out double in the top of the eighth and a passed ball allowed the runner to advance to third. The next Michigan batter hit a deep fly ball to right, allowing the runner to tag from third and score, increasing the Michigan lead to 3-0.
After a two-out single, Head Coach John Savage made a pitching change, bringing in Nate Hadley who got the third out. Yet again, though, UCLA was retired in order in the bottom half of the eighth. Kauffmann continued to make UCLA hitters look bad with Stronach and Ydens striking out.
Hadley pitched a perfect ninth inning, bringing up the bottom of the ninth inning. The Bruins made it interesting.
Pinch hitter Jarron Silva walked and Garrett Mitchell reached on an infield single. Then, Ryan Kreidler hit a deep fly ball to center, allowing both Bruins to advance to second and third. Chase Strumpf came to the plate and pounded a dribbler into the grass toward third base, reaching first base without a throw on an infield single. Toglia, representing the winning run, came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. He lashed a single into right field, scoring Silva and Mitchell. Strumpf, the tying run, made it to third with still only one out.
That would be it for Kauffmann, who was replaced by Jeff Criswell in his first relief appearance of the season. Jake Pries came to the plate with the tying run on third in the form of pinch runner Kevin Kendall and the winning run on first base. Unfortunately, Pries got under one and flew out to shallow left field, not deep enough to score Kendall. Stronach came to the plate and, although the ump did him no favors, Jack struck out swinging to end the game on his third K of the game.
All in all, it was a disappointing and sloppy game from the usually disciplined Bruins, despite nearly pulling out a win in the ninth inning. The Bruins are going to need a much better effort tomorrow if they are going to have any chance bounce back and tie the series.
Kauffman earned the win, Criswell earned the save, and Ryan Garcia suffered his first loss of the season.
First pitch tomorrow is at 6 pm PT and the game will be televised on ESPN2.