UCLA had its pick of ways to extend its season Saturday afternoon.
A ground ball, a fly ball, a walk, an error, a wild pitch, a passed ball or a base hit—any of them would have sufficed with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied in an NCAA baseball regional elimination game against San Diego State.
UCLA could manage only a strikeout and a fly ball into foul territory, indicative of all the opportunities squandered during a season-ending 3-2 loss in 13 innings at Blair Field in Long Beach.
The Bruins also had the potential winning run at second base in the 10th and 11th innings but came up empty in those situations as well, leaving them especially drained by the end of a game that lasted 5 hours 7 minutes. It was the second consecutive one-run loss for UCLA (30-27), resulting in the Bruins being swept in a regional for the first time since 1986.
“I’m surprised I don’t have gray hair,” UCLA Coach John Savage said, lifting his cap to show a mop of brown hair after his team stranded 15 runners and went two for 13 with runners in scoring position. “I don’t have gray hair, but I probably should. Those are painful at times.”
San Diego State (42-20) advanced to play the winner of the late game between Long Beach State and Texas on Sunday afternoon. The 49ers led the Longhorns 2-1 in the fifth inning when this edition of The Times went to press.
The Aztecs will get to play at least one more game after Bruins reliever Scott Burke hit Danny Sheehan with a pitch on the shoulder in the 13th inning with the bases loaded, bringing home the go-ahead run.
San Diego State closer CJ Saylor (3-0) stymied the Bruins over 4 2/3 scoreless innings while throwing 76 pitches in an appearance that was the longest of the fifth-year senior’s career.
It appeared that Saylor’s outing might be a short one when he entered in the ninth inning. UCLA had loaded the bases with one out on an error and two intentional walks before Saylor came on to face Zander Clarke, striking him out on a high fastball and then getting Michael Toglia to fly out into foul territory down the left-field line.
“I knew if I got out of that inning,” Saylor said, “that we would most likely come away with a victory.”
The Bruins were the team in position to prevail in the 10th inning when Ryan Kreidler hit a two-out single through the right side of the infield. Kreidler advanced to second on a wild pitch and tried to take third but was thrown out by catcher Dean Nevarez.
UCLA put the winning run into scoring position again in the 11th after Gavin Johns drew a leadoff walk and went to second on Brett Stephen’s sacrifice bunt. But Daniel Amaral and pinch-hitter Jake Pries flied out to end in the inning.
UCLA’s lack of clutch hitting left reliever Jake Bird (5-5) to take the loss despite giving up only one run in 4 2/3 innings, the second consecutive game in which the Bruins had nothing to show for strong pitching.
“I have nothing bad to say about us not scoring more runs,” Bird said. “We competed. That’s all you can ask.”
UCLA’s lineup Saturday featured four freshmen and four sophomores, including sophomore starting pitcher Jon Olsen, who gave up two runs in the second inning but was otherwise dominant in his 7 2/3 innings. Savage dismissed the notion that there was value in his young team merely having appeared in the postseason after failing to qualify last season.
“We’re used to winning,” Savage said. “We’re used to going to Omaha and won a national championship [in 2013], played for a national championship, so I’m not really into the experience thing. I’m not one of those coaches. I’m glad they experienced it, good for them. … But it’s UCLA baseball, and we expect to win and expect to win this regional and we didn’t.”