This post was updated May 11 at 6:46 p.m.
A ball made it through UCLA baseball’s third baseman Tuesday night, and it cost the Bruins the game.
“We got what we wanted, kind of a rolled ground ball, and unfortunately we didn’t make the play.” said coach John Savage. “In a game like that, that’s a big play.”
With two on and two out in the fourth, a grounder made it through sophomore Jake Hirabayashi, giving No. 15 Cal State Fullerton (29-16) its first two runs in the game en route to handing UCLA (24-21) a 4-3 loss.
Justin Hooper had just fired four scoreless innings and retired the first two batters of the fifth when the sophomore lefty walked two consecutive batters, prompting coach John Savage to pull him.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty good; I was disappointed that he didn’t finish that fifth inning,” Savage said. “He really could have gotten five clean innings, not totally clean, but five zeros … and he didn’t.”
The first batter that redshirt sophomore reliever Matt Walker faced sent the ball through Hirabayashi. The Titans scored two on the error, and after a wild pitch, they would add another unearned run on an RBI single to make it 3-0. A Fullerton solo homer in the bottom of the sixth made it 4-0.
The Bruin offense remained quiet until the eighth inning, when a double by senior left fielder Brett Stephens sparked a two-out rally.
“The first six or seven innings I felt like we were just going through the motions,” said junior first baseman Sean Bouchard. “We didn’t really make any adjustments against the first few pitchers – and nothing against them – but they weren’t pitchers that we haven’t seen before, and I know that we’re definitely capable of getting hits and putting up runs against them.”
Bouchard and freshman right fielder Michael Toglia each contributed RBI singles, and freshman second baseman Chase Strumpf hit an RBI double to make it 4-3 going into the ninth.
“Over the last few weeks our team has shown that they can do a lot more,” Bouchard said. “So I think a lot of blame is not us for not making proper adjustments over the span of (the middle innings).”
The offense was without Kyle Cuellar, who is sick, for the fourth straight game. Savage said doctors will evaluate whether the freshman designated hitter is contagious and determine whether he should make the trip to Washington State this weekend.
“I think if you win, it really propels you into the weekend,” Savage said. “RPI-wise it’s a big loss, but our destiny is still going to be determined really on the next two weekends. You gotta have a short memory.”