UCLA baseball will not be bringing championship No. 109 to Westwood.
After two losses in the double elimination College World Series, the Bruins have to pack their bags and say goodbye to Omaha.
But what killed the Bruins’ chances in the series had little to do with who they were as a team. Rather, it was a sudden loss of identity ““ loss of what made them great throughout 2012 and the postseason.
“We were a little out of character. It was a combination of guys just wanting to do too much and wanting to go play as well as they can, and getting a little out of character and maybe a little impatient,” junior infielder Trevor Brown said.
UCLA’s struggles began with a loss to Arizona in its second game. Not only did the Bruins lose, they were completely shutout, 4-0.
Their first loss in the 2012 postseason dampened the Bruins’ drive. In their next outing, the elimination game against Florida State, a weak offense just added to their issues on the mound.
Sophomore starting pitcher Zack Weiss struggled all season long, missing the middle of 2012 because of injury and, when he played, often struggling with control. Coach John Savage only left Weiss in long enough to make one out, give up a hit, several walks and two runs in the 4-1 loss.
Although the four relievers that came after Weiss gave up two more runs in total, it would have made no difference ““ the Bruins could only manage one run of support.
FSU’s starter, junior Scott Sitz, was powerful as he pitched into the seventh inning with eight strikeouts.
Even more powerful was the Seminole relief pitching, which gave up no runs and managed to fan three in a little more than two innings.
It was the anemic UCLA offense that really ruined it for the Bruins, as acknowledged by junior center fielder Beau Amaral, who has been key at the leadoff spot in his three seasons in Westwood.
“Offensively, these last two games, we didn’t play how we played all year. We didn’t adjust to pitching the way we should have, and things just didn’t work out for us,” Amaral said.
Before the CWS, UCLA hadn’t lost a game since May 20, when it dropped the final game in the Pac-12 conference series against California.
The Bruins won every game in their Super Regional, Regional and even blew out Stony Brook in their first game of the CWS, 9-1.
The main issue with their offense in the second and third games was not an inability to get on base, but a problem making the most of opportunities. They had a bases-loaded chance in the sixth to take the lead or at least notch a few more runs in the final game, but the Bruins failed to capitalize, leaving the score locked at 4-1.
“Right when we felt we had that mojo going our way, and we got guys on and (junior left fielder Cody Keefer) had that hit. … We all felt like it was going to be a big inning. Like I said, we all got a little out of character and got a little too excited,” Brown said.
Although it was a disappointing end for the team, it was far from what the critics expected of the Bruins in 2012.
The loss of top pitching duo, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, to the 2011 MLB draft left not just one but two major holes in their rotation.
Although this season’s starting rotation had its fair share of struggles, a reborn offense that scored 394 runs this season ““ as opposed to 261 in 2011 ““ as well as a strong bullpen helped UCLA pull through and win 48 games.
“To be back in Omaha minus Cole and Bauer, almost winning 50 games, to play the strength of schedule that we played, I’d give pretty high marks to the players and the job that they did. It’s certainly disappointing,” Savage said.
“But this team had a remarkable year, and I’m proud to be their coach.”