For the greater part of nearly two years, the UCLA baseball team relied on a steady formula of pitching and defense to put together 14 consecutive Tuesday game victories.
In a familiar setting Tuesday night, at Jackie Robinson Stadium for the first midweek home game of the year and facing former UCLA assistant coach Rick Vanderhook’s Cal State Fullerton squad, the Bruins’ string of strong pitching and defense finally gave way as did their winning streak.
The Titans pushed across five runs as a direct result of pitching and defense mistakes in the 9-6 loss for the No. 10 Bruins.
No. 4 Fullerton tied the game on a wild pitch in the fourth before putting the game out of reach in the sixth, following an error by freshman reliever James Kaprielian. With two out and one on, Kaprielian’s errant throw to first kept the inning alive and the Titans went on to add four unearned runs to take a 9-3 lead.
“They pitched better than we did. We didn’t pitch very well and they took advantage of our youth on the mound. You’ve got to give them credit,” said coach John Savage.
“They were certainly better than us tonight. … You give a team like that too many opportunities and you’re going to get beat.”
Still, UCLA (18-7) got back into the game late after being helped by Fullerton’s own defensive miscues.
The Titans (25-4) committed five errors, including four which resulted in three unearned runs scored by the Bruins in the sixth, seventh and eighth to cut the deficit to three, 9-6. But the Bruins were unable to get anything going in the ninth, dropping their first Tuesday game since May 24, 2011, against the UC Irvine Anteaters.
“We kind of do our thing on Tuesdays. Coach takes pride in it, … so we don’t take off Tuesdays and we come out hard and play to win every game,” said freshman second baseman Trent Chatterton, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBI in the loss.
“You’ve got give credit to Fullerton. They’re a good program.”
UCLA took its first and only lead of the game in the bottom of the third.
Junior shortstop Pat Valaika crushed a 2-out, 0-2 pitch to deep left for a two-run homer to go up 3-2. Fullerton recaptured the lead in the next inning, however, scoring on a wild pitch and an RBI groundout to take a 4-3 advantage.
“Whenever a team makes five errors they’re kind of giving you the game, and we didn’t pitch very well,” Valaika said.
“We put up five runs, we could’ve put up a little more so all in all we lost as a team.”
With the loss, the Bruins have now dropped three of their last four games ahead of a three-game series this weekend against the No. 8 Oregon State Beavers. Snapping the Tuesday win streak against a Southern California rival was a big setback for the Bruins.
“It was just a disappointing loss,” Valaika said. “We didn’t show up. They’re a really good team and it’s good to see where we’re at against a good team like that and they were better than us tonight.”