Failure to mount a comeback cost the Bruins a win, but failure to stop a comebacker may have lost them their No. 2 pitcher.
Junior pitcher Jon Olsen started the game for No. 11 UCLA baseball (10-4), but took a line drive to the head and quickly dropped to the ground in the first inning of a 3-2 loss to USC (9-4) on Sunday. Olsen stayed laying face down for several minutes as the team medical staff assisted him before he left the field under his own power with a bloody rag covering his face.
“It’s a pretty scary situation when you see a line drive like that. … It’s probably one of the worst I’ve seen in my career,” coach John Savage said. “I just hope that (Olsen) can come back and pitch, really for his career’s sake.”
Savage said the team is unaware of the extent of Olsen’s injury and that he was being examined at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Olsen was scheduled to start against No. 8 TCU (9-4) yesterday before the game was rained out. Sunday’s original projected starter, freshman Zach Pettway, was forced to come in early when Olsen left.
Pettway, who had a 0.95 ERA entering Sunday, retired the first 10 batters he saw, striking out six. However, the streak was broken by USC first baseman Dillon Paulson, who knocked a solo shot to right field in the fourth inning to knot the score at 1-1. Pettway would bounce back, not allowing any of the next nine Trojans on base.
“He’s been something,” Savage said. “It just looks like he’s throwing in the backyard. … It’s old fashioned competitiveness that’s refreshing to see.”
Pettway’s play began to slip in the seventh inning, allowing a deep triple to right field that gave USC the momentum to get back into the game. That was followed by a line drive that deflected off of Pettway’s forearm, allowing a run to score.
After Pettway, the rest of the Bruins’ bullpen was unable to get much done. It took four relievers to finish the seventh and eighth innings, with redshirt junior Garrett Barker letting up a solo home run that gave the Trojans a 3-2 lead.
Trailing by a run with two men down in the top of the ninth, sophomore outfielder Jarron Silva was brought in to pinch hit, slapping an opposite field single to left field. Prior to this game, Silva had just eight at-bats on the season and zero hits to show for it.
“We know he can hit, and he came up and smoked the ball,” Savage said. “A lot of times, those kind of swings will get a guy going.”
Redshirt freshman outfielder Jordan Prendiz pinch ran for Silva and made it all the way to third base on a single by sophomore first baseman Michael Toglia. With the tying run on third, sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf came up to the plate, but struck out looking on a full count to end the game.
UCLA’s bats were held quiet up to that point, tallying just three hits through the first eight innings. Their lone two runs came from a sacrifice fly by sophomore right fielder Jeremy Ydens and a bases loaded walk by Toglia.
The Bruins drew eight walks, but Savage said he was disappointed in his team’s inability to capitalize, stranding 11 runners on base.
“We just didn’t have any big hits, that’s what it comes back down to,” Savage said. “When you walk eight, you don’t usually win, but my hat’s off to them because they made pitches with runners in scoring position.”
UCLA plays again Tuesday night in Northridge against CSUN with an opportunity to end their two-game skid.