UCLA baseball concludes NCAA tournament run with season-ending loss to Auburn
No. 2 seed UCLA baseball watches its teammates from the dugout. The Bruins fell short in the NCAA Auburn Regional, ending their season in the finals on a loss in the weather-laden contest. (Antonio Martinez/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 1 seed Auburn
|No. 2 seed UCLA
June 6, 2022 2:35 p.m.
This post was updated June 6 at 3:27 p.m.
Last week, the Bruins fell in the opening game of the Pac-12 tournament in a contest that spanned two calendar days.
On Monday, they saw their season come to an end in another two-day contest.
No. 2 seed UCLA baseball (40-24, 19-11 Pac-12) fell to No. 1 seed Auburn (40-19, 16-13 SEC) by a score of 11-4 on Monday afternoon at Plainsman Park in the Auburn Regional Final, eliminating the blue and gold from the NCAA tournament. The contest began Sunday afternoon, but after an inclement weather delay pushed the final three and a half innings to Monday, the Bruins had one extra day before their season officially ended.
Coach John Savage said despite the outcome, he is pleased with his team’s 40-win season.
“It’s difficult to end your season in the regional final,” Savage said. “We did that last year at Texas Tech. We did that again this year. But at the end of the day, it’s about growing, it’s about development, and ultimately, it’s about winning. So, I’m very proud of our program.”
When the rain and lightning rolled into the Auburn skies, UCLA was forced to fight its way through an 8 p.m. local start time – two hours after scheduled first pitch and three and a half hours after the conclusion of its victory over Florida State on Sunday afternoon.
Auburn chased UCLA starter freshman right-hander James Hepp from the game before he could record an out, bringing a run home on a single and ushering in senior left-hander Daniel Colwell.
While Auburn loaded the bases three times through the first four innings, UCLA cobbled together four total baserunners in the same span. All three Bruin leadoff hitters reached base through the first third of the contest, but none advanced past second base.
Sophomore third baseman Kyle Karros said the curveball of Auburn right-hander Mason Barnett made him especially difficult to face.
“His fastball/slider – that mix is good, but it’s hittable,” Karros said. “Once he’s landing that slow curveball in there, too, it’s pretty tough to try to hit through that. Such a differential in speeds.”
First baseman Sonny DiChiara knocked in a pair of runners for the Tigers in the fourth off the Bruins’ third pitcher of the contest to bring the score to 4-0. The senior has batted above .400 for the majority of the season and tacked on four of his seven total Regional RBIs against UCLA on Sunday.
A solo home run from shortstop Brody Moore continued to build the Tigers’ advantage in the fifth, and the scoring continued for the Tigers in the sixth on a double.
Junior left-hander Jake Saum allowed his second double of the inning three batters later, clearing the bases and bringing the score to 9-0 in favor of the Tigers.
A lightning delay began at 8:40 p.m. on Sunday with sophomore right fielder JonJon Vaughns up to bat in the bottom of the sixth. The inclement weather forced the Bruins to wait another 15 hours before they could resume the season-ending contest.
Savage said being down by nine runs was more impactful when the game resumed than the weather delay.
“If you want to get to Omaha, you deal with anything, anywhere, anytime,” Savage said. “The weather was not an issue. … At the end of the day, the nine-nothing deficit was the difference.”
The restart proved beneficial for UCLA, which scored its first two runs of the contest in the seventh off of a sacrifice fly and a single. The Bruins continued to build a comeback in the eighth with a pinch-hit solo home run from freshman Jack Holman and another run-scoring single, but Auburn answered back in the next frame with two more runs of its own.
With the loss, UCLA’s season came to an end one game away from making a Super Regional.
After facing adversity during both the regular and postseason, Karros said the future is bright for the Bruins.
“This group is extremely connected, and it’s going to be special when we have a lot of the same guys coming back next year,” Karros said. “It’s only going to continue to get better over the years.”