Despite the disappointment of closing out its season with a series loss at Stanford, the UCLA baseball team has something to be proud of – the Bruins will host an NCAA regional as a No. 1 seed at Jackie Robinson Stadium next weekend.
They are one of 16 host teams, and will get to stretch their time at JRS out just a little bit longer.
“It’s truly a sense of pride. … There’s only 16 hosts in the country and having you being one of them is an area of pride and (we’re) looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of our fans,” said coach John Savage.
Going into Sunday’s series finale, UCLA had already lost two games but it was prepared to do everything possible to end the weekend right. The Bruins built off every little mistake that the Cardinal made, and built up their usually struggling offense to take the series finale, 6-4.
“We needed that. Tough loss Friday, let the game get away from us (Saturday) and we bounced back (Sunday),” Savage said. “So it is nice to have a little momentum going into the postseason.”
The weekend was a battle for the conference title, and the Bruins were in the race going into the weekend. Two games back in the Pac-12 with three to play, to take the title they needed at least a series win, and for the conference-leading Oregon State Beavers to have some bad luck at the end of their season.
But as first place Oregon State won its series this weekend and UCLA lost its own, it was apparent that a Pac-12 title was not to be for the Bruins, who finished third in the conference.
Their struggles started Friday, facing Stanford’s ace pitcher, senior Mark Appel. Appel threw strike after strike, and a UCLA team that has struggled on the offensive side of the game couldn’t make it happen at the plate, scoring only one run in the loss.
“He locates well and he’s tough to hit. He’s got good command on all his pitches. … It was just one of those games where we just didn’t string quality at bats together,” said junior first baseman Pat Gallagher.
On Saturday, the Bruins managed to do a little more damage at the plate, but the game escaped them as the Cardinal knocked in run after run, winning 7-3.
The team came into Sunday knowing that the Pac-12 title was out of reach, but that it could still salvage the weekend – especially important with the regional coming up next weekend.
UCLA will host San Diego State in the first round on Friday, and has the chance to face Cal Poly and San Diego in the double-elimination weekend.
“We really wanted to come up here and make a statement and head into the postseason on a good run,” said sophomore catcher Shane Zeile. “But we did a good job bouncing back on Sunday.”