A pitching gem put an end to the Bruins’ win streak.
No. 1 UCLA baseball (29-7, 10-4 Pac-12) fell to California (20-13, 8-6) 4-1 on Friday night to lose its first game in two weeks. Right-hander Jared Horn started the game for the Golden Bears and threw 8 1/3 innings, striking out nine.
The Bruins’ one run and three hits were both season lows.
“You’ve got to give Horn a lot of credit,” said coach John Savage. “He threw multiple pitches for strikes, and at the end of the day he was really the difference in the game.”
UCLA went hitless through the first three innings, but scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the third. Sophomore shortstop Kevin Kendall drew a walk to lead off the inning, and moved to second on a pickoff throw that went to the right field wall. A bunt from junior catcher Will McInerny moved Kendall to third, and a sacrifice fly from sophomore right fielder Garrett Mitchell brought him home.
Cal responded in the top of the fourth after catcher Korey Lee ripped a double into the left-center gap and right fielder Max Flower followed with a single into left field that put runners at the corners. Second baseman Darren Baker loaded the bases on a bunt to the right side that junior right-hander Ryan Garcia could not transfer to first in time, and a sacrifice fly from shortstop Sam Wezniak tied the game.
Garcia issued a walk to load the bases again, but limited the damage to one run when he forced a groundout to end the inning.
The run was all Garcia allowed in his six innings of work, striking out nine.
“They took advantage of some of my mistakes early on in the third inning,” Garcia said. “One run scored, but I was able to keep them at one – it could’ve been worse.”
Junior left fielder Jack Stronach got the first hit of the game for UCLA in the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle, taking two free bases when the ball slipped past the center fielder’s glove. However, junior first baseman Michael Toglia struck out swinging and redshirt sophomore designated hitter Jarron Silva flew out to strand Stronach at third.
After freshman center fielder Matt McLain’s infield single in the fifth, the Bruins went hitless for the next three innings.
“I think we maybe came out too relaxed,” Stronach said. “I think we needed more edge tonight than we had. We’ve got to stick to our approach more.”
The game remained tied until the top of the seventh, when the Golden Bears broke through with three runs against redshirt senior right-hander Nathan Hadley.
Center fielder Cameron Eden stepped to the plate with one on and launched the first pitch over the left field wall – just the second home run Hadley has allowed this season. Hadley gave up another later in the inning on the first pitch to first baseman Andrew Vaughn, who sent it to same location as Eden.
“Cal is a very offensive team,” Savage said. “They’ve got a ton of experience throughout their lineup. (Hadley) made a couple of mistakes and they made him pay for it. (Hadley’s) been our seventh inning guy all season and he’s been fantastic, so it’s bound to happen.”
With UCLA still trailing by three runs in the bottom of the ninth, Stronach walked and Toglia singled to force Cal to tap into its bullpen. However, senior pinch hitter Jake Pries struck out swinging and McLain struck out looking against left-hander Arman Sabouri.
According to Stronach, the Bruins’ lineup will have a different showing in the series finale at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’s just one game,” Stronach said. “There’s no reason to panic or anything. I know we’re going to come out tomorrow with some edge, so it’s going to be a good game for sure.”