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UCLA Baseball: 'Cats Best Bruins, 7-3, With Rubber Match Today
UCLA fought back back from a 3-0 deficit to even the score going into the eighth inning, but a pair of ninth inning dingers by Arizona put the game away.
The UCLA baseball team (11-6, 1-1 Pac-12) will finish up its home series versus the Arizona Wildcats (15-5, 1-1 Pac-12) today at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The two teams split the first two games, so today’s contest, which starts at 1 pm PT, will decide who wins the series.
Last Time Out
Yesterday, UCLA feel behind early in the game as UCLA starter Jessie Bergin (3-1, 2.77 ERA) gave up a couple of solo home runs to Wildcats Jacob Berry and Kobe Kato, respectively, in the top of the second inning, putting Arizona up 2-0. Kato would strike again in the top of the fourth, with an RBI double to the gap in left center field. The ‘Cats led 3-0 after fourth innings.
After a scoreless fifth inning, the Bruins posted a breadstick in the bottom of the sixth inning, cutting Arizona lead to 3-1. UCLA should have scored twice.
To start the fifth inning, JT Schwartz walked and Noah Cardenas singled, but both runners ended up on second and third due to a throwing error on Arizona’s center fielder. Michael Curialle grounded out to shortstop, scoring, Schwartz. After a balk moved Cardenas to third with only one out, the Bruins looked poised to scored another run.
It didn’t happen. Josh Hahn struck out looking on a full count and freshman outfielder Carson Yates, who is struggling at the plate with a .167 batting average, struck out swinging, stranding Cardenas at third.
The Bruins would send eight batters to the dish in the bottom of the seventh inning, but only plated two runs and stranded the based loaded. With one out and runners on second and third, Matt McLain singled to center, scoring Kyle Karros from third and moving Kevin Kendall to third. After fouling off a few pitches on a full count, JT Schwartz singled to center, scoring Kendall with the tying run and moving McLain to third with one out.
A Noah Cardenas hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with only one out but, as has been a recurring problem for the Bruins all season, they could not capitalize as Curialle and pinch hitter Daylen Reyes both struck out swinging to end the inning. Still, UCLA was back in the game, 3-3, and a strong bullpen outing in the last two frames could still have salvaged things for the Bruins.
That didn’t happen.
Kyle Mora is having a senior season to forget and Saturday was no exception. Two walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded the based with two outs and Arizona catcher Daniel Susac made Mora and the Bruins pay with an RBI single, putting the ‘Cats back up by one run, 4-3.
Arizona piled on in the ninth inning. With the normally reliable Sean Mullin pitching, Arizona squeezed in a double between two outs. One out away from giving UCLA the chance to possibly go into the bottom half of the last frame down one run and with a puncher’s chance, that opportunity vanished as Mullin gave up back-to-back home runs to Ryan Holgate and Jacob Blas, with the former being a two-run shot and the later of the solo variety. Arizona led 7-3, and UCLA, despite putting a pair of runners on base, could not muster a run in the bottom half of the ninth inning.
On the day, UCLA stranded 13 base runners and, by and large, could not capitalize on three Arizona fielding errors. UCLA continues to fail to get the clutch hit, while Arizona scored all of its last four runs with two outs. And, really, that was the difference in this game.
Another damning stat: as much as UCLA shot themselves in the foot by stranding base runners, this loss was on Arizona’s ability to hit the long ball. The ‘Cats had four round-trippers on the day, and have hit 17 on the season. UCLA, on the other hand, doesn’t have much pop, only hitting eight home runs in 17 games so far this season.
“Nasty” Nick Nastrini (2-1, 3.54 ERA) will take the hill for UCLA today, looking to bounce back from a very rough, four inning, six earned run outing last week against Cal Poly. Arizona will counter with freshman TJ Nichols, who has yet to lose this year.
#6 UCLA Baseball (11-6)
Opponent: Arizona Wildcats (15-5)
Game Time: 1:00 pm PT, Sunday, March 21, 2021
Where: Jackie Robinson Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Projected Pitching Matchup:
UCLA - Nick Nastrini, RHP, Jr. (2-1, 3.74 ERA)
ARIZ - TJ Nichols, RHP, Fr. (3-0, 4.29 ERA)
This is your UCLA baseball vs. Arizona Wildcats game three, rubber match open thread.