Baseball loses regular-season series for 1st time in over 2 years to San Francisco
Junior right-hander Nick Nastrini tossed 6.1 innings of three-run ball, but it wasn’t enough, as No. 2 UCLA baseball dropped the opening series finale against San Francisco on Sunday. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)
|No. 2 UCLA||3|
By Sam Connon
Feb. 21, 2021 8:26 p.m.
The Bruins went the entire 2019 and 2020 seasons without losing a regular-season series – a perfect 16-0.
Make it 0-1 to start 2021.
No. 2 UCLA baseball (1-2) dropped Sunday’s game and the series to San Francisco (2-1), losing the finale 8-3 at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Bruins hadn’t lost a season-opening series since 2016, and they hadn’t lost a series at home since April 2017.
The Bruins held the lead at the end of each of the first six innings, riding junior right-hander Nick Nastrini and his career-high 11 strikeouts for most of the day. He pitched 6.1 innings and recorded a punch out in every inning he appeared in.
“I thought he was outstanding,” coach John Savage said. “I was very, very happy and excited to see the way (Nastrini) pitched, and I think any scout in the stands would say the same thing.”
Nastrini’s fastball topped out at 96 miles per hour, and he said controlling that pitch is what allowed him to get off to a hot start Sunday afternoon.
“One of my main points of emphasis is fastball command,” Nastrini said. “I feel like if I have good fastball command, everything else plays pretty well off it.”
Once Nastrini got pulled in favor of junior left-hander Daniel Colwell, however, things started to slip away.
Colwell inherited two runners from Nastrini in the seventh and retired the first and only batter he faced. Senior right-hander Michael Townsend came in for the next at-bat, and he let up a two-out single to right that tied the game at three runs apiece before escaping the inning with a strikeout.
Sophomore left-hander Jake Saum allowed one earned run in the eighth to give the Dons their first lead of the day, and redshirt senior right-hander Kyle Mora allowed four runs in the top of the ninth – only one of which was earned – after loading the bases with no outs.
The Bruins’ bullpen owned a 1.26 ERA last season, with Townsend and Mora both filling major roles, but the group allowed 10 runs in 10 innings of work against the Dons this weekend. Savage said he had to do some patchwork over the weekend with freshman right-hander Max Rajcic injured, and that led to the inconsistent performance on the mound in the later innings all series long.
“It’s a pitch-making business,” Savage said. “I’m not too concerned about (the bullpen), but I know they’ll pitch better.”
Facing an 8-3 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, UCLA picked up two singles to lead off the inning. Those were the Bruins’ first two hits since the second inning, and neither even led to a run before the final out.
UCLA got on the board early when junior shortstop Matt McLain cranked one over the left field wall for a solo homer in the bottom of the first. It was the Bruins’ first home run of the young season and the eighth of McLain’s career.
“I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” McLain said. “I got a good pitch and I put a good swing on it. That’s all I’m trying to do: put a good swing on balls. I did that, and it ended up going out.”
After Nastrini let up a run the following half inning, UCLA took the lead once again on a line-drive double to left-center by freshman first baseman Kyle Karros in the bottom of the second. Junior third baseman Mikey Perez scored from second and junior designated hitter Jack Filby made it home from first, but those were the last runs the Bruins scored all day.
“It’s tough, but that’s baseball,” McLain said. “We’re a good offense, and you can’t tell where we are in the order, and that’s where we want to get to. We weren’t there today, but we’re going to get there eventually.”
Dons right fielder Jordan Vujovich answered with a solo homer of his own to lead off the third, making it a 3-2 game. The score didn’t change again until San Francisco tied things up in the top of the seventh, thanks in most part to Nastrini’s streak of 15 straight batters faced without allowing a hit.
The Bruins’ offense finished the day with five hits, and no batters were able to pick up multiple hits.
UCLA will get back out on the diamond with a chance to get back to .500 Tuesday night against Loyola Marymount.