It was a routine grounder to second base that summed up UCLA baseball’s weekend.
With runners on second and third and two out in the ninth inning, freshman infielder Trent Chatterton positioned himself to make the easy play that would end the inning Saturday. But at the last second, the ball hit a rough patch of dirt and took a wild hop over Chatterton’s head and into right field, scoring two runs for Oregon State.
Things just didn’t bounce the Bruins’ way.
After securing a 3-2 win over OSU on Friday, UCLA’s hitting disappeared, losing 5-0 and 5-2 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, dropping the series 2-1.
While making the most of the limited offense on Friday, turning six hits into three runs, No. 10 UCLA’s offense took a nosedive on Saturday and Sunday, as the Bruins squandered several scoring opportunities in both losses.
In consecutive innings on Saturday, UCLA runners were thrown out to end the inning when trying to advance to third on pitches in the dirt. A similar scenario happened Sunday, when senior infielder Cody Regis ended the inning trying to steal second on a pitch in the dirt.
”You’ve got to be 100 percent on the ball in the dirt. That’s baseball 101,” said coach John Savage.
“Mistakes happen and we’ve got to move on and learn from them and make sure that we control the things we have to control.”
Despite the offensive blunders, the Bruins benefitted from strong pitching on Friday and Saturday, which kept them in the game after the No. 6 Beavers (25-5, 7-2 Pac-12) scored early.
But the absence of any offense on Saturday wasted a strong performance by junior pitcher Nick Vander Tuig, who gave up just two runs over 6.2 innings, but got tagged with the loss, as UCLA failed to score a run.
While starting pitching was a strength for UCLA (19-9, 7-5) in the series’ first two games, it didn’t show up on Sunday. Sophomore pitcher Grant Watson struggled from his first pitch, surrendering two hits, two walks, two runs and a hit batter in the first inning.
Watson was pulled in the fourth after giving up his fourth run, and with UCLA’s offense still underperforming, that four-run deficit proved to be too much to overcome.
UCLA did trim a run off the score in the sixth when freshman outfielder Brett Urabe launched a ball over the left field fence for a solo home run – his first hit of the season.
“When I hit it I didn’t really know it was going to happen, but it was awesome,” Urabe said. “Running the bases and turning third and seeing (assistant) coach (T.J.) Bruce and he’s excited and that was awesome, so what a way to get your first hit.”
While the home run woke up the crowd, it didn’t wake up UCLA’s offense, which scored just once more off of an OSU error. But their lack of runs was not due to a lack of solid contact. The Bruins repeatedly hit the ball hard but right at Beaver fielders. Their inability to find holes in the defense led to their difficulty to score runs.
“You just try to barrel it up and you can’t really control the result and what happens,” said junior infielder Pat Valaika. “It’s frustrating but it’s part of the game.”