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Rich Hill happily took his seat at his press conference with a smile and a sigh of relief after San Diego’s win over Cal Poly on Sunday.
Just a few hours later, the Torero coach took the very same walk into a covered area of Jackie Robinson Stadium, only this time it was after his team had been eliminated by UCLA with a 6-0 loss Sunday night. The Toreros won earlier to get into the title game of the Los Angeles Regional, but could not repeat the feat having to turn around and play the waiting Bruins less than an hour later.
“Our guys left the hotel today at 10:55 and I don’t know what time it is now, about 11 hours later,” Hill said. “Each game, each pitch is emotion filled … then you’ve got to come right back and beat a team like UCLA. In 2008, we did it … it can be done, (but) UCLA was just better tonight.”
The Bruins jumped on the weary Toreros right away, terrorizing San Diego starter Max Homick from the opening pitch.
Junior center fielder Brian Carroll led off with a bunt single on the first pitch, and UCLA collected five more hits in the inning, including a two-run single by junior shortstop Pat Valaika.
Homick, who closed out San Diego’s win the previous game, lasted just one pitch into his eighth batter before being pulled for a relief pitcher. Senior second baseman Cody Regis immediately followed with an RBI single to give the Bruins a 4-0 advantage.
It was more than enough for sophomore starter Grant Watson, who was near-perfect, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing just two runners to reach base.
“The first four or five innings of last night, it was upside down as everybody saw. … Tonight was kind of a reverse, we jumped on them and turned the ball over to Grant,” said UCLA coach John Savage. “I thought Grant was outstanding … he was in complete command of the game.”
After falling behind early on Saturday against Cal Poly and rallying for the win, UCLA coasted on Sunday, taking a lead and never looking back in the win to advance to a Super Regional for the second straight year – the first such streak in school history.
The Bruins padded their early lead, scratching across a run in the fifth and seventh innings. Named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, junior first baseman Pat Gallagher brought in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, his second RBI of the day and fourth of the tournament.
“It’s a lot easier to play when you’re up. … I think we only faced 29 batters total so it was good tempo – it felt like we were always hitting and never on defense,” Valaika said.
UCLA will now go on the road to face Cal State Fullerton in its Super Regional. In 2010, the Bruins bested the Titans in three games to advance to the College World Series.
While UCLA was pleased to advance out of its regional, its coach left the podium Sunday night ready for his team to continue playing.
“Our expectations are very high and we’re excited about (winning) this weekend, but certainly we know that there is a lot of baseball left,” Savage said.