UCLA Baseball Faces Army in Elimination Game After Losing to UNC, 5-4
The Bruins face the Black Knights at noon PT today for the right to try to win two games tomorrow and one game on Monday in order to advance to the Super Regional round.
The UCLA baseball team (35-19) has a tough road ahead to advance out of the Lubbock Regional after losing its opening round match-up last night to North Carolina by the score of 5-4. The Bruins would need to win four straight elimination games to move to the Super Regional stage, a tall order.
That task begins today against the Army West Point Black Knights with an quick turn-around and an early first pitch of 12 noon PT. The game will be televised on ESPN2. On the winners’ side of the bracket, UNC faces regional hosts Texas Tech at 6 pm PT.
Last Time Out
As I stated in my preview of this game, UNC’s starting pitcher Austin Love (10-4, 3.71 ERA),was critical to this game. And he was.
After giving up a run in the first inning on a Kevin Kendall single and a Matt McLain double, Love settled down and retired 13 straight Bruins, including retiring the UCLA sides in order in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings.
It was during those innings that the Tar Heels took control of the game, although they almost let it go once Love tired and UCLA got to the inconsistent North Carolina bullpen.
UNC plated a run in the second inning on a lead-off double, a wild pitch and a ground out, tying the score at 1-1. They would add two more runs in the fourth inning after a walk, a single, and an error put runners on second and third with no outs. The error was on the single when Kendall couldn’t cleanly field the ball, allowing the runners to move up one base each. A two-out single scored both runs and the Tar Heels led 3-1.
The combination of Kendall and McLain would result in another UCLA run in the sixth inning, with the former starting it off with a lead-off double. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, McLain hit a hard ball to center field, scoring Kendall on the sacrifice. The lead was just 3-2.
UCLA reliever Adrian Chaidez had come into the game in the sixth and did a great job putting out a serious fire in that inning. He was almost out of the seventh when disaster struck. With two outs, Chaidez issued a walk with a full count. He had the next batter at 0-2 and was one pitch away from getting out of that inning. But UNC’s Danny Cerretti lined that offering over the center field fence for a 5-2 North Carolina lead.
UCLA scored a run in the seventh inning off a tiring Love on a two out Kendall RBI single, and had another runner on second, but pinch hitter Pat Caulfield struck out swinging on a full count pitch. There was a bit of a cat and mouse game with that at-bat. UCLA announced left-handed hitter Jarrod Silva as the pinch hitter, UNC removed Love and brought in a left-handed reliever, and the Bruins sat Silva down and brought on the right-handed Caufield instead.
UCLA threatened again in the eighth inning, putting runners on second and third with one out, care of a McLain single and a Kyle Cuellar double. With the tying run 180 feet away, Mikey Perez struck out swinging on probably the most pivotal at-bat in the game. A wild pitch scored McLain and moved Cuellar, the tying run, to third with two outs. But pinch hitter Jack Filby hit a swinging bunt and was not able to beat out the throw to first from the catcher.
UCLA put the tying run on first with two outs in the ninth on a Caufield walk, but McLain struck out swinging to end the game. If you are going to lose, you might as well lose with your best player taking a big cut to try to tie or win the game.
Jesse Bergin (6-4) took the loss for the Bruins, allowing three runs (two earned), on eight hits in 5-1/3 innings. The inconsistent UNC bullpen actually did a good job, ending the threat in the seventh, allowing only one run in the eighth when UCLA could have scored more, and shutting the Bruins down in the ninth. Love earned the win for the Tar Heels.
Although UCLA lost, this was a pretty classic-style baseball game. Not just home runs and strikeouts as MLB has become. It was more like a chess match, with pinch hitters countered by pitching changes, countered by a different pinch hitter. Stuff you don’t see much of any more in The Show. It was an example of a game that makes college baseball great, even though the final score was not in favor of the Bruins.
Army West Point Black Knights
Today, the Bruins face Army in an elimination game. The loser goes home.
The Black Knights won the Patriot League Tournament to earn that conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA postseason. Army was outclassed by Texas Tech yesterday, falling 6-3. The Red Raiders were the best team Army had faced all season, and UCLA will be the second-best team they will face. No team on the Black Knights regular season schedule made the postseason.
Army is used to playing away from home, having played only 19 games on their home ballfield, with 27 road games and 4 neutral site games. The Black Knights are 16-17 away from home.
Army (28-24) hits the ball pretty well with a team batting average of .277. Three players in their starting lineup, Ross Freidrick (.325, 4 HR, 19 RBI), Jeremiah Adams (.305, 3 HR, 22 RBI), and Anthony Giachin (.300, 3 HR, 32 RBI), are hitting .300 or better. They do not have a lot of pop, hitting only 27 home runs in their 52 games played. That’s good news for the Bruins after a two-run homer was the difference in the game against the Tar Heels last night.
Army has not announced its starting pitcher but, after using Anthony Loricco last night, the Black Knights have several options. Senior right hander Ray Bartoli (3-1, 3.05 ERA), who has started six games, is one possibility. Bartoli has also come out of the bullpen six times and has two saves.
Another option is sophomore righty Patrick Melampy (2-3, 3.29 ERA). Sophomore righthander Robbie Buecker has started 12 games but, with a 6.55 ERA, starting him might be risky.
The Black Knights have a team ERA of 4.97.
UCLA has also not announced its starting pitcher but Head Coach John Savage will likely throw Sean Mullen (9-1, 3.19 ERA) today in a must-win game. Coach Savage could send Zach Pettway to the hill hoping that even an average outing by Pettway should be enough if UCLA can hang some runs on Army’s pitching. It would be a shame, however, if that strategy backfired and the Bruins went home after today without using their best starting pitcher, Mullen.
If the Bruins are able to win today, they would face the loser of the Texas Tech v. North Carolina game tomorrow and, if they win that game, would play a second game against the same team. The winner of that game would play the loser of Texas Tech v. North Carolina on Monday to advance to the super-regionals.
NCAA Baseball Lubbock Regional, Day 2
When: Saturday, June 5, 2021
Where: Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Stadium, Lubbock, TX
UCLA - TBA
Army - TBA
Texas Tech - TBA
UNC - TBA
This is your Lubbock Regional games three and four preview.