Last night’s game was one of those where you get the distinct sense that neither team wants to win, even though you know that they both do. That’s because both teams played a sloppy game.
For UCLA’s part, the Bruins stranded 15 runners on base in this game. Meanwhile, the Michigan Wolverines committed five errors, including two on one play in the eleventh inning, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
UCLA seemed aggressive enough at times. In the first inning, after Garrett Mitchell led off with a single up the middle, he moved up to second when Ryan Kreidler flew out to center. Chase Strumpf followed with a single between the shortstop and third baseman which move Mitchell to third. Jake Pries was hit by a pitch to load the bases while Michael Toglia’s grounder to second brought Mitchell home. That’s all the Bruins could manage to do in the first as they left two men on.
The Wolverines used a lead-off double in the bottom half of the inning to get the run back and tie it up, 1-1. Then, in the second, Michigan put the only crooked number of the night on the board when Joe Donovan hit a two-run homer to left which made it, 3-1.
UCLA was unable to score in the second, the third, the fourth and the fifth innings. While the Bruins left one runner on in the second, they left no one on in the third or the fourth. But, in the fifth inning, they managed to load the bases with two outs, only to have Jake Pries pop out for the third out. It was the first of many missed opportunities.
Finally, the Bruins broke through with a run in the top of the sixth. Toglia led off the inning with a walk and, then, he went to second on a balk and to third on a passed ball. With one out, Jack Stronach singled to score Toglia and UCLA cut the deficit in half, 3-2. Again, the Bruins left runners in scoring position in this inning as Stronach would finish the inning standing on second.
In the eighth, Toglia tied the game with a solo shot to left and that tied the game, 3-3. John Savage seemed to know that this one was going to be a knockdown, dragout fight and he brought his gun to the knife fight by going to Holden Powell to pitch the eighth and he held the Wolverines scoreless as the teams headed to the ninth.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, the game went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Kreidler walked and, then, stole second. Chase Strumpf hit what should have been a routine fly ball out to Michigan left fielder Christan Bullock, but he dropped it. That scored Kreidler and UCLA was ahead, 4-3. A pair of walks to both Pries and Toglia loaded the bases for the Bruins, but they couldn’t do anything about it and UCLA led 4-3 in the middle of the ninth.
It might have been enough if Powell didn’t give up a leadoff double to Jimmy Kerr to start the bottom half of the inning. Kerr moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Blake Nelson and he scored on when Blomgren hit a sacrifice fly which allowed Kerr to score on it to the game at 4-4 and send it to extra innings.
In the eleventh inning, Mitchell reached on a throwing error pulled Kerr off the bag at first for Michigan. Kreidler came to the dish and hit a grounder to third where Blake Nelson threw to second to try to get Mitchell, but the throw went into right field as Mitchell moved to third. Kreidler was able to get to second when the ball got past right fielder for the second error on the same play. That gave the Bruins runners on second and third with no outs. Michigan walked Strumpf intentionally to load the bases.
After a pitching change, Walker Cleveland was able to have Pries hit a one-hopper to third where Nelson had a tough time handling the ball, but he got up and tagged Mitchell out for the first out and, then, he stepped on the bag at third for a force out on Kreidler. The Wolverines had gotten two outs together as the Bruins just looked confused.
Michigan intentionally put Toglia on first to re-load the bases, but Cleveland got Noah Cardenas to ground out for the final out of the inning. Again, the Bruins had left three men on bases and again the score was still tied,
Jake Moberg pinch-hit for Prendiz in the twelfth inning and he reached on another Michigan error. With one out, Kevin Kendall doubled to right-center and Moberg was able to score from first to give UCLA a 5-4 edge. After Kendall stole third, Mitchell was intentionally walked to pitch to Kreidler. Kreidler hit a ball to shallow center which was caught for UCLA’s second out. It wasn’t deep enough to score Kendall, but, in his second baserunning miscue in as many innings, Mitchell was doubled up at first for the third out and the Bruins wouldn’t get a much-needed insurance run.
Thankfully, Powell kept Michigan in check again in the bottom of the twelfth. After initially walking the leadoff batter, Powell retired the next three batters he face in the inning for the win. He ended up pitching five innings and throwing 77 pitches total, which is nearly double his previous high.
So, while it wasn’t pretty, the good guys ended up winning this one when they needed it and, now, these teams will meet in Game 3 with the winner of that game advancing to the College World Series in Omaha. The first pitch of Game 3 will be a 6:00 pm PT on Sunday and the game will air on ESPN2.
Go Bruins!! Bring home 119!!