No team had been able to sweep the Bruins this season, but the Wildcats did just that.
No. 7 UCLA baseball (30-13, 14-7 Pac-12) dropped all three games against Arizona (28-17, 10-11), losing 3-1 on Friday and 6-3 on Saturday, and sacrificing its share of first place in the conference. The Bruins had completed three weekend sweeps in a row going into the matches, but found themselves on the other side of the equation in Tucson, Arizona.
UCLA scored a total of 4 runs in the series after averaging 10 runs per game in the month of April. The Bruins’ lone run Friday came from sophomore catcher Kyle Cuellar, who had a pinch hit RBI single in the fifth.
The Bruins went down 2-0 in the first Friday, but those would be the only runs freshman right-hander Zach Pettway would allow. The righty went seven innings, racking up a career-high 10 strikeouts.
“Once coach (John) Savage came out and talked to me, I kind of just calmed down,” Pettway said. “After that, it was just making sure I was breathing and keeping calm for each pitch. Then, I was good to go.”
Cuellar’s RBI made it a one-run game, but another Arizona run in the eighth made it 3-1. Down 2 runs, UCLA went down in order in the ninth to end the game. Pettway had a career-high game, but he still ended up taking the loss, just his second of the year.
“It’s a good lesson for a lot of our guys – that a freshman can go out there and do that in a pretty hostile environment,” Savage said. “It was great to see him pitch, he’s fun to watch.”
The Bruins had a chance to avoid the sweep Saturday afternoon, but they fell in a 2-0 hole in the first yet again. Sophomore right-hander Ryan Garcia came into the game with a 1.77 ERA and a perfect 5-0 record. He pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed 5 runs Saturday, inflating his ERA to 2.37 and taking his first loss of 2018.
Sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf smacked a 2-run home run to center field in the third inning to tie the game at 2, his team-leading 10th home run of the season.
“It all comes back to a team approach,” Strumpf said. “I feel pretty comfortable right now with the approach. … I’m just trying to ride the wave as long as possible.”
The Wildcats hit a solo shot in the third to retake the lead, then dropped 2 runs in the fourth and another in the sixth to make it a 6-2 game. The Bruins had an opportunity to come back in the top of the ninth after freshman right fielder Garrett Mitchell hit an infield single with one out. Sophomore pinch hitter Jack Stronach drove Mitchell in with a single up the middle to make it a 3-run game, but sophomore left fielder Jeremy Ydens struck out to end the game.
UCLA out-hit Arizona 8-5 in the series finale, but were unable to capitalize, going 1-for-9 with two outs and leaving the bases loaded in the first.
“We didn’t swing the bats well at all this weekend,” Savage said. “We can use it as a teaching tool and reboot it and get after it again (in practice) on Monday.”
Savage said he was satisfied with the way his team pitched this weekend, only allowing 11 runs in the three-game series. However, he also said that he only wants to look at games as a whole, team effort.
“We win as a team, we lose as a team,” Savage said. “It doesn’t really matter how you lose.”
UCLA will have a chance to end their three-game losing streak Tuesday against Long Beach State, which beat them 5-2 on April 10. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium.