UCLA baseball falls to Florida State in NCAA Auburn Regional opener
Members of UCLA baseball prepare in the dugout on May 15. The Bruins will return to play in the NCAA Auburn Regional on Saturday in the elimination bracket. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)
By Jay Fenn
June 3, 2022 1:03 p.m.
The Bruins will have to climb out of the elimination bracket to keep their season alive.
UCLA baseball (38-23, 19-11 Pac-12) was defeated by Florida State (34-23, 15-15 ACC) by a score of 5-3 to open the NCAA Auburn Regional. The Bruins are one loss away from seeing their season come to an end and will have to win four consecutive games to advance to Super Regionals.
Florida State opened the scoring in the first thanks to an RBI single by left fielder James Tibbs. Although freshman shortstop Cody Schrier – making his return to the lineup after missing the final four games of the Pac-12 tournament – knocked a base hit in the bottom half of the frame, nothing more came of it for the Bruins.
After the first inning, sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic retired 10 straight batters before the Seminoles added two more runs on a triple by shortstop Jordan Carrion. Junior right fielder Michael Curialle threw out Carrion at home on the ensuing play to keep UCLA’s deficit at three.
Sophomore center fielder Carson Yates launched a home run off the scoreboard in left-center field in the fifth inning to give the Bruins their first run of the game. Later in the inning, graduate student first baseman Jake Palmer knocked in fellow graduate student left fielder Kenny Oyama to bring the Bruins within one.
Florida State left-hander Parker Messick saw his day come to an end after the fifth inning, finishing the contest allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four.
Coach John Savage had praised the left-hander, but said the Bruins did enough against him to get the win.
“I love his competitiveness. I love his pitch ability. I love his urgency,” Savage said. “We ran up to pitch count against him and he’s one of the best left handed pitchers in the country, clearly. I thought we did a pretty good job against them.”
Following a lead-off walk and double, Florida State answered back in the top of the sixth inning to extend its lead to 4-2. The Seminoles saw their second runner cut down at the plate by sophomore third baseman Kyle Karros, holding them to one run in the frame.
Freshman right-hander Luke Jewett replaced Rajcic in the seventh inning. The sophomore threw six innings while allowing four runs on five hits.
Rajcic said it was nice to get back on the mound after missing the Pac-12 tournament.
“It’s good to be back,” Rajcic said. “Obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted, but my goal is to pitch to give my team the best chance to win and try to compete.”
UCLA threatened in the bottom of the sixth after Florida State’s left-hander Wyatt Crowell walked the bases loaded, but Oyama grounded out into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. The Bruins added another in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull them within one.
Florida State added an insurance run in the top of the ninth thanks to a solo home run from first baseman Alex Toral.
The Bruins brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth with Curialle due up, but the right fielder grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the contest and send the blue and gold to the elimination bracket.
After a first game loss in both the 2021 NCAA regionals and the 2022 Pac-12 tournament, Savage said the Bruins are familiar with their current spot.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Savage said. “It’s baseball, it’s the playoffs. New day tomorrow, new opportunity.”
UCLA will play the loser of Auburn and Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.