The Bruins allowed no hits in the final six innings of play Friday night, but still fell short in the end.
No. 11 UCLA baseball (10-3) gave up four unearned runs in the first two innings and three runs in the ninth inning in a 6-3 loss to No. 15 Vanderbilt (11-4) on Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
“It’s disappointing,” said coach John Savage. “We really didn’t do much to win. We walked nine (batters) and struck out 13 times. It was really remarkable it was 6-3, to be honest with you.”
UCLA tallied nine hits, five more than Vanderbilt, but couldn’t earn another run after scoring three in the second inning.
“We didn’t string together enough good at-bats,” said sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf. “I don’t think we deserved to win that game.”
Senior right-hander Jake Bird took the mound for his fourth start of the season, throwing 109 pitches through seven innings with four strikeouts. Bird gave up four runs, all in the first two innings, although none of them were earned.
“I thought Bird really battled,” said Savage. “He kept us in the game and gave us a legitimate chance to win tonight.”
Vanderbilt struck in the first inning, bringing home a batter who walked and then advanced to third on a passed ball. The Bruins proceeded to put two Commodores on second and third thanks to a fielding error, but were able to escape the inning.
In the second, another error by UCLA put two more Vanderbilt batters on second and third, and this time it resulted in a run. The next at-bat, Bird gave up an unearned two-run homer to center field.
Vanderbilt hit a double in the third, but Bird wouldn’t allow another hit for the rest of his outing.
“I thought the first couple innings he was probably a little amped up,” said Savage. “He wasn’t quite himself early on. (But) he really found the groove and gave us a five-inning shutout after that.”
Bird had a 0.49 ERA before Friday night, pitching an average of 6 innings in three games while giving up a total of 16 hits and four runs.
UCLA earned its first run in the second inning on an RBI single by sophomore designated hitter Jack Stronach. Stronach started his second game in a row for the Bruins in place of sophomore designated hitter Kyle Cuellar.
In the fourth, the Bruins’ first two batters touched home to make it 4-3. Sophomore first baseman Michael Toglia drew a walk, and then Strumpf hit a two-run home run, his third homer of the season.
“We had a couple good at-bats here and there,” said Strumpf. “After that (home run), I thought there would be some positive energy for the team. But as the game went on, we kind of had uncompetitive at-bats and easy strikeouts.”
Toglia led the team with three hits in three at-bats, while Strumpf finished the day 1-for-4 with three strikeouts.
UCLA had opportunities to come back toward the end of the game. Down one run in the eighth, sophomore right fielder Jeremy Ydens and Toglia both singled. Savage opted to bring in Cuellar to pinch hit, but he struck out to end the inning.
Cuellar batted .319 with 36 hits as a freshman, but hasn’t earned a hit in his last seven games.
“We (need to) get him going,” said Savage. “He’s off to a rough start. We have belief in Cuellar and he’s (going to) hit. We just liked that matchup bringing (him) in against a right-hander.
Redshirt junior southpaw Garrett Barker started the eighth, walking one batter but finishing the inning clean. In the ninth, four pitchers came out of the bullpen for the Bruins, loading the bases, walking in a run and then giving up another run on a fielder’s choice to make it 6-3.
UCLA tried to claw back from three runs down, as sophomore shortstop Ryan Kreidler singled and freshman infielder RJ Teijeiro earned a walk. But junior center fielder Daniel Amaral struck out on a 3-2 count to end the game.
Vanderbilt used just two pitchers on the night. Their starter, right-hander Drake Fellows pitched seven innings with nine strikeouts, while right-hander Tyler Brown finished the game with two shutout innings.
“I hate giving up runs. I hate losing,” said Bird. “But there’s a lot of stuff we as a team can learn from this and there’s a lot I can learn from this, so it could be good in the long run.”
UCLA will continue the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium against No. 8 TCU (9-3).