The Bruins will again have to win multiple elimination games in order to advance.
No. 1 UCLA baseball (51-10, 24-5 Pac-12) fell to Michigan (45-19, 16-7 Big Ten) 3-2 in the first game of the Los Angeles super regional. The Bruins will now have to defeat the Wolverines in two consecutive games to earn their spot in the College World Series.
UCLA rattled off three consecutive wins to make it out of the first round of postseason play after losing to Loyola Marymount in its second game of regionals last weekend.
“We’ve been in this situation a few times all season long,” said coach John Savage. “We won 51 games for a reason; there’s a lot of trust and confidence in that clubhouse and belief. Our backs were against the wall a little bit last week, and certainly it is this weekend.”
After only producing one hit and trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Bruins rallied for two runs but the comeback effort fell short.
Redshirt sophomore Jarron Silva led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit walk before infield singles by sophomore center fielder Garrett Mitchell and junior second baseman Chase Strumpf loaded the bases with one out. Toglia knocked a two-RBI single to right to cut into the Michigan lead on the first pitch he saw.
Following a Michigan pitching change, senior designated hitter Jake Pries and junior left fielder Jack Stronach stranded men on first and third to stop the potential comeback effort.
“We didn’t do anything the first eight innings,” Savage said. “At the end of the day, like I said, (Michigan) made more pitches, and they had some better at-bats.”
Junior right-hander Ryan Garcia retired the first six batters he faced before a single and double in the fourth placed two runners in scoring position. Center fielder Jesse Franklin hit a two-out, two-RBI single to right to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
“I think we went a couple fastballs early; he ended up staying with the changeup,” Garcia said. “(I) tip my cap to him, (I) made and mistake and he took advantage of it.”
A wide pick-off throw by Garcia in the following frame allowed a base runner to advance from first to third. The Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning, sitting down 12 consecutive Wolverines after his throwing error.
The next Michigan batter to reach base got on with a double in the eighth and advanced to third on a passed ball. A sac-fly increased the Wolverines’ lead to three and a single by the next batter prompted Savage to pull Garcia in favor of redshirt senior right-hander Nate Hadley.
Garcia ended his night having given up two earned runs over 7 2/3 innings and striking out eight.
After not producing a baserunner the first time through the lineup, the Bruins’ offense threatened with men in scoring position in the fourth and fifth.
Sophomore center fielder Garrett Mitchell led off the fourth with a walk and advanced to third via a sac-bunt and fly-out before junior first baseman Michael Toglia hit an inning-ending groundout to first.
In the fifth, senior designated hitter Jake Pries led off with a single and junior right fielder Jeremy Ydens’ dropped fly ball put runners on first and second with one out. Freshman catcher Noah Cardenas grounded into an inning-ending double play on the next pitch to keep the Bruins off the board.
Michigan right-hander Karl Kauffmann tossed eight shutout innings with eight strikeouts before getting pulled with one down in the ninth. Kauffmann was 9-6 with a 2.62 ERA entering Friday.
“Kauffmann was outstanding,” Savage said. “Threw the ball extremely well, pretty much handled us the entire evening.”
Game two of the super regional will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.