Four hours and 11 innings after UCLA baseball’s first pitch Tuesday, it was Chase Strumpf who put an end to the misty evening.
With a runner on third and one down, Strumpf sent an 0-1 fastball high into right field. The fly ball was just deep enough to allow junior first baseman Sean Bouchard to tag up, scoring the final run in the Bruins’ extra-inning win.
“He went two fastballs in a row. I took the first one, but the second one I could not have passed up,” said Strumpf, freshman second baseman. “I got it out in the outfield, and, luckily enough, (Bouchard) got a good jump at third and the outfielder didn’t make the best throw. We kind of lucked out there.”
Bouchard had led off the inning with a triple two batters earlier, putting UCLA baseball (18-16, 9-6 Pac-12) in position to take a 2-1 walk-off victory over No. 17 Long Beach State (22-14, 7-2 Big West) on Tuesday. The midweek matchup pushed through a fog delay before the seventh inning as well.
The low-scoring game was largely a pitcher’s duel. Neither of UCLA’s nor Long Beach’s hurlers allowed more than three hits in their outings.
Sophomore Justin Hooper started things off with five innings while giving up no earned runs and picking up five strikeouts.
“He competed. When he competes he looks really good,” said coach John Savage. “I think he took a big step forward tonight.”
The only Dirtbag to cross the plate did so in the top of the fifth, when freshman third baseman Jack Stronach overthrew a bunt to first that allowed the leading runner to score.
In the bottom of that same inning, the Bruins were able to tie the game on a solo shot from freshman right fielder Michael Toglia.
“He threw me a fastball right down the middle, and I thought to myself, no way I’m taking another one,” Toglia said. “Then he threw me a change up that he left up, and it looked good and I put a good swing on it.”
After the game was tied, UCLA’s bullpen shut Long Beach down. Freshmen Ryan Garcia and Nick Scheidler made it through the sixth and seventh without allowing a hit, and senior Scott Burke carried the Bruins through two more perfect frames. Bird finished the 10th and 11th while allowing only one baserunner.
“The win is good, but how we did it is even more impressive,” Savage said. “We needed Bird to get back in the mix. He had a good outing. Scotty Burke had a good outing. Scheidler with the fog and the delay and that whole thing, he handled himself very well.”
Savage added that he was especially impressed with how Scheidler pitched despite the fact that the delay forced him to sit down for 20 to 25 minutes in the middle of his outing. Savage said he didn’t think the fog affected the game very much.
“The game was pretty much played the same before the fog and after the fog,” Savage said. “Zeros.”
Those zeros would continue until Strumpf’s game-winning plate appearance in the 11th.