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UCLA baseball falls to North Carolina in 1st round of Lubbock Regional

Junior shortstop Matt McLain recorded two hits and two RBIs in No. 2 seed UCLA baseball’s Lubbock Regional-opening loss to No. 3 seed North Carolina on Friday night. (Courtesy of Elise Bressler/Texas Tech Athletics)


No. 3 seed North Carolina5
No. 2 seed UCLA4

By Taiyo Keilin

June 4, 2021 7:52 p.m.

This post was updated June 4 at 8:15 p.m.

The Bruins scored single runs early and late but could not cash in on enough opportunities to eke out a win.

Playing under the Friday night lights in Texas, No. 2 seed UCLA baseball (35-19, 18-12 Pac-12) dropped its Lubbock Regional opener 5-4 to No. 3 seed North Carolina (28-25, 18-18 ACC). The blue and gold had 12 baserunners throughout the contest but never plated more than one in an inning.

“Playoff baseball man – it’s a pitch here, pitch there,” said coach John Savage. “You got to give them some credit. They hard-fought some at-bats.”

The Bruins got on the board first with redshirt junior outfielder Kevin Kendall leading off the bottom of the opening inning with a single. Two batters later, junior shortstop Matt McLain’s hard ground ball stayed inside the third base bag, scoring Kendall from second.

An out on the bases in each of the first two innings and a line drive double play in the third helped junior right-hander Jesse Bergin allow only one Tar Heel to cross the plate in the first three frames. In the fourth, however, he was not as lucky.

Bergin issued a leadoff walk and a soft line drive to left field, which ricocheted off Kendall’s body, allowing both runners to take an extra base. With two away, North Carolina’s designated hitter, Will Stewart, singled home both runners, giving the Tar Heels a lead they kept for the rest of the contest.

Bergin tossed 5.1 innings and allowed the three runs – two earned – in his postseason starting debut. His counterpart, right-hander Austin Love, stymied UCLA for most of his outing.

Following a two-out walk in the bottom of the first, the Bruins failed to get anything going against Love. The 6-foot-3 right-hander retired 13 batters in a row before UCLA got to him again in the sixth.

Kendall reached base as the leadoff man for the second time in the game with a double down the right field line. After a wild pitch advanced him to third, McLain scored him with a sacrifice fly to center to bring the Bruins within one.

“(Love) pitched a heck of a game,” Kendall said. “He went 6.2 (innings), so you know he definitely did his part. He did a great job of commanding his three pitches, kept us off balance. We had our opportunities – and we capitalized on some – but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t enough.”

UCLA’s comeback attempt stalled when North Carolina shortstop Danny Serretti launched a two-run home run in the top of the seventh off senior right-hander Adrian Chaidez. The Bruins threatened again in the bottom half and managed to scratch one across via Kendall’s third hit of the night, but senior right fielder Pat Caulfield struck out in a pinch-hitting role with two runners on base, ending the rally.

“Chaidez has gone through people all year and a two-out walk leads to a two-run inning with the home run with two strikes,” Savage said. “They just had a lot of experienced at-bats, I thought, that extended some innings and gave them a couple more innings, and they came up with a couple big hits.”

After freshman right-hander Max Rajcic stranded two more Tar Heels in the top of the eighth, the blue and gold tacked on another single run in the bottom of the inning. But, as they did in the seventh, the Bruins left runners on the corners, despite introducing three pinch hitters throughout the frame.

Savage’s squad left another runner on base in the ninth, bringing the game tally to eight.

UCLA will now be faced with an elimination game against No. 4 seed Army – the first-ever meeting between the two schools – at noon on Saturday. Should the Bruins beat the Black Knights, they will need to string together three more wins to make it to the Super Regionals.

“This is not a position that we haven’t been in,” Kendall said. “We’re comfortable in this spot. Our confidence is still high, there are a lot of aspects where we can carry momentum into tomorrow. We’ve been in these shoes before, so we know what it takes.”

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Taiyo Keilin | Sports senior staff
Keilin is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's soccer, cross country, women's golf and men's golf beats. Keilin was also a contributor on the baseball, women's golf and men's golf beats.
Keilin is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's soccer, cross country, women's golf and men's golf beats. Keilin was also a contributor on the baseball, women's golf and men's golf beats.
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