There must be some kind of mystique that builds up when the UCLA baseball team takes the field against local rival Cal State Fullerton.
There’s something inexplicable, something paranormal, something that just keeps getting in UCLA’s way.
Coach John Savage doesn’t think it’s tension. No, the Bruins did not tie a program record for wins in a regular season over the weekend by playing stiff.
No, what No. 7 UCLA lacked in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Titans at Goodwin Field was patience.
“We were uncharacteristic offensively,” Savage said. “We’ve been having such good at-bats lately, but it just seemed like we were rushed a little bit.”
The Bruins (41-12) sped up and lost for just the second time in their last 13 games.
Perhaps, in seeking vengeance for an earlier loss to the No. 8 Titans (38-15), UCLA was antsier than usual and more aggressive than it had to be.
“They just kept us off balance,” said freshman infielder Cody Regis, who had two of UCLA’s three hits. “We were rushing and they were mentally tougher than us.”
And at least on Tuesday, a bit stronger too.
Like in the team’s prior meeting, Fullerton used the long ball to get to UCLA’s pitchers.
Senior right-hander Garett Claypool surrendered just two runs on three hits in six innings on Tuesday. Those runs came in the opening frame, when Tyler Pill hammered a two-run home run.
Regis responded with his solo blast in the next inning to cut the deficit in half, but the Bruins were not heard from again until they tallied a run in the eighth.
“There was that feeling in the air,” Regis said. “We played it as a bigger game than it really was.”
Junior left-hander Matt Grace went in for Claypool but offered little relief, giving up a three-run shot to Nick Ramirez in the seventh to push Fullerton’s lead to 5-1.
If the formula sounds eerily similar, it’s because it is. When the two teams met in early April, Fullerton received first-inning homers from Carlos Lopez, Corey Jones and Ramirez.
In that game, UCLA trailed 5-0 before it even took its first hacks.
“They have power,” Savage said. “The home run got us like the last time we played them.”
As a result, UCLA suffered its fourth road loss of the spring.
“We wanted this one, but we didn’t get it,” Savage said. “Now we have to move on and look at the big picture.”