UC RIVERSIDE 5
The term “bullpen” has been around baseball since 1924.
Its origins are debated and how it got incorporated into the game is anyone’s guess, but it refers to a team’s staff of relief pitchers or the area that those pitchers use to warm up.
By the time UCLA (14-10) suffered a 5-4 loss to UC Riverside (12-11) in 11 innings Tuesday night at the Riverside Sports Complex, the Running of the Bulls could have sped through the UCLA bullpen without endangering a Bruin pitcher.
Freshman starter Zack Weiss was removed after allowing just one hit in three innings, and coach John Savage proceeded to rifle through six more pitchers before game’s end.
In the bottom of the ninth, with the lead firmly in hand, freshman closer Nick Vander Tuig blew a save opportunity, giving up a two-out single to the Highlanders’ Tony Nix that forced the extra innings.
Then, in the bottom of the 11th, UCR’s Bryan Horst doubled through the left side of the infield to bring home the winning run. It was a cruel ending for the Bruins, who completed their sweep of Washington last week with a walk-off hit of their own.
“You’ve got to play nine innings and we weren’t able to do it,” Savage said. “We didn’t cash in later in the game, but I thought we did a good job offensively in the first couple of innings.”
Some relievers from the bullpen were successful. Redshirt junior Mitchell Beacom held the Highlanders scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings.
Others didn’t have such luck. Redshirt sophomore Chase Brewer and sophomore Dennis Holt combined to surrender four walks, mustering just two outs in the fifth. Redshirt junior Brandon Lodge came to the rescue by retiring the next four batters.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Brewer, Holt and Lodge had combined to throw just four and one-third innings. The bullpen has helped UCLA compile a 1.99 team earned run average, lowest in the Pac-10.
Regardless of what was happening in the pen, the No. 24 Bruins have struggled all year to be consistent at the plate. That wasn’t the case Tuesday, as the Bruins totaled nine hits to the Highlanders’ seven.
“We started out strong and we thought we had it in the bag,” said sophomore left fielder Cody Keefer, who had two hits in the game. “They kept fighting back, and we couldn’t get our offense going later on in the game.”