The UCLA Bruins baseball team (52-11) fell short of its goal of making the College World Series tonight when they lost to the upstart Michigan Wolverines by the score of 4-2. Tommy Henry earned the win for UM, his tenth of the season, while Kyle Mora suffered the loss, allowing one run on four hits in 32⁄3 innings. It was a bittersweet pill to swallow for this team and its fans as the Bruins only scored nine runs in the entire series, tying a season-low for a weekend series for UCLA.
The Bruins previously had only scored nine versus Sacramento State, but were able to win two of three in that series. Simply stated, the Bruins bats did not get the job done tonight despite outhitting Michigan eight to six, falling short of the Bruins’ season average in runs in each of the three games of the series.
Although Michigan would score first, UCLA actually held the lead for a while in this game. They just couldn’t hold it and, after falling behind, the Bruins wasted a couple of chances to tie or take the lead.
After both teams went down in order in the first inning, Michigan drew first blood in the second. After a one out walk, Christan Bullock doubled, putting runners on second and third. An infield ground out would score the first run of the game, but Michigan would get no more, taking a 1-0 lead.
UCLA answered in the bottom half of the frame with a lead-off solo home run by Jake Pries. The Bruins would put a runner on second with one out, but could not bring him around to score. UCLA had tied things up, though, 1-1.
After Michigan went down in order in the top of the third, the Bruins would take the lead. In the bottom half of the frame, Garrett Mitchell tripled to right field with one out. It was his twelfth of the season. Mitchell scored on a ground out by Ryan Kreidler and UCLA led 2-1.
After neither team scored in the fourth inning, Michigan took the lead in the fifth inning. Bullock walked to lead off the inning, chasing UCLA starter Nick Nastrini. Kyle Mora came on for the Bruins. Bullock stole second and Jack Blomgren singled, putting runners on the corners. After Joe Donovan struck out, Blomgren advanced to second on a failed pick-off attempt. With two ducks on the pond, Ako Thomas singled up the middle, scoring both Bullock and Blomgren, flipping the script and putting the Wolverines up, 3-2.
The Bruins would put runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth, but Chase Strumpf struck out looking.
Neither team threatened in the sixth inning and UCLA wasted a Noah Cardenas double to lead off the seventh. Cardenas made it to third with one out, but poor situational hitting stranded him there. Freshman Matt McLain grounded out to third when he should have been trying to hit the ball to the right side of the infield and Mitchell grounded out to the pitcher with a 3-2 count to end the threat, stranding Cardenas.
Neither team would threaten in the seventh inning, but, in the eighth, Kreidler struck out looking on a clear ball, which is no surprise the way balls and strikes were called in this series, and Strumpf flew out deep to the warning track in right field for the second out. Pries struck out swinging to end the inning.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Michigan got an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Bullock started things off against Nate Hadley, who had come on in the eighth, with a lead-off triple. Bullock would put the Wolverines up, 4-2, tagging on a sacrifice fly with one out. But Hadley would strike out the next two batters swinging, ending the inning and bringing up the Bruins for one last chance in the bottom of the ninth inning.
UCLA made it interesting.
After Michael Toglia lined out to right field, Ydens singled to left, his third hit of the night. The tying run came to the plate in the form of Cardenas. Michigan reliever Benjamin Keizer threw a wild pitch, allowing Ydens to move to second and eliminating the possibility of a season-ending double play. With two strikes, Cardenas has hit by a pitch in the thigh, putting runners on first and second with one out and bringing the game-winning run to the plate. Jordan Prendiz pinch-ran for Cardenas, putting more speed on the base paths in the form of the tying run.
Jake Moberg pinch-hit for Jack Stronach which set up a lefty versus righty match-up. Moberg hit a deep fly ball to right center field, but it was just short of the track and was caught for the second out. Both runners were able to tag up, putting the tying run on second with two outs. McLain would come to the dish and, with two strikes, he grounded out to shortstop, ending game and the Bruins’ 2019 season. Michigan celebrated on the infield of Jackie Robinson Stadium, a tough sight to see for all Bruin fans.
The Los Angeles Super Regional series was defined by UCLA’s inability to get the big, clutch hit and that was no different tonight. Despite a handful of chances, UCLA could not get it done when it mattered most, resulting in UCLA’s only series loss of the entire 2019 season.
Despite all of the accolades and accomplishments of the season, this was a team that most—myself included—expected to get to Omaha. They didn’t and, ultimately, that makes this season a disappointing one, better than 2015 when the top-seeded Bruins did not make it out of the regional stage, but not as good as 2010 or 2012, when the Bruins made it to Omaha but did not come away with the title. It’s not just me saying it. I have no doubt that going to Omaha was one the team goals for the 2019 Bruins.
There will be many new faces for Bruins baseball next year and, with all of that talent leaving including Toglia, Strumpf, Pries, Garcia, and Ralston to name a few, the 2020 squad will not be expected to make it to the College World Series like this one was.
Good night, Bruin fans. Thanks for following along with UCLA baseball this season.