by Steve Parkhurst
There is no one, ever, who has figured out baseball, and especially the game of college baseball. This weekend's series between the UCLA Bruins and Oregon State Beavers was evidence for that statement as the two schools got together at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles for a Pac-12 series.
Friday night got started with a matchup between Oregon State starter Kevin Abel and UCLA starter Zach Pettway. Both starters pitched well, and well enough to win, but neither would be around when this game was settled. Abel went 4 1/3 allowing two hits, while Pettway went six innings and allowed three hits.
Tied at one going into the eighth, the Beavers scored three runs and took a late 4-1 lead. In the top of the ninth, Oregon State added another run.
UCLA was down 5-1 headed to the bottom of the ninth and Oregon State seemed poised to steal an opening road game. They just needed three more outs to put the game away, and the Beavers had Jake Mulholland on the mound, one of the Pac-12's toughest closers.
With one out, UCLA batters put together three straight singles. UCLA's JT Schwartz walked on seven pitches to get the Bruins to within 5-2. Jack Filby came off the bench to bat for UCLA. Down to the last strike, Filby walloped a ball to the wall in right-center scoring three and tying the game on his double.
After a scoreless top of the tenth, the Bruins needed one run to end the game.
UCLA began their half of the tenth with a single and a walk. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners along, at which point Oregon State opted for an intentional walk to load the bases. Before another pitch was thrown, Jack Washburn ended the game when he balked and the runner on third walked down the third base line to give UCLA a 6-5 win in ten innings.
Two batters. Zero pitches thrown. One batter reaches base. One run scores.
Saturday night saw the Beavers send left-hander Cooper Hjerpe to the hill while the Bruins sent Sean Mullen to do their bidding.
Hjerpe and Mullen were both outstanding. Hjerpe gave an inch and UCLA made it seem like a mile with Mullen on the mound. Bruins shortstop Matt McLain (1-for-2) doubled to the wall in left in the fourth inning. McLain then stole third. He scored moments later on a wild pitch as UCLA took a 1-0 lead.
For Oregon State, Garret Forrester provided much of what little offense the Beavers had on Saturday night, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.
In the Bruins half of the eighth, Matt McLain walked to lead off the inning. He then stole his third base of the night to get himself into scoring position. Left-fielder Kyle Cuellar sent a base hit through the left side to bring in an insurance run. The Bruins led 2-0 and Matt McLain had scored both runs and had three stolen bases.
After a leadoff single in the ninth for the Beavers, UCLA reliever Max Rajcic retired the next three batters to end the game and pick up his third save of the season. Cooper Hjerpe took the tough loss, dropping to 2-4, after 6 2/3 innings and just three hits and nine strikeouts. Baseball is unfair sometimes.
The 2-0 win for Mullen improved his record to an impressive 8-1 on the year, while also giving UCLA the series win before Sunday’s final game.
Jesse Bergin took the hill for UCLA and Jake Pfennigs opposed him for Oregon State on a typical, sunny Southern California afternoon.
The Beavers jumped out to an early lead after the first two batters were retired by Bergin. A fielding error was followed by four straight singles and a 3-0 lead before the Bruins got their first chance at the plate.
In their half of the first, after a batter reached on an error, UCLA cleanup hitter JT Schwartz sent the first pitch he saw over the wall in center to get the Bruins right back in the game 3-2.
Designated hitter Greg Fuchs (3-for-4) pounded a home run to right field with two outs in the third and the Beavers added to their lead, 4-2.
Quiet into the fifth, third baseman Kyle Karros got a run back for UCLA on a solo home run to deep left-center.
Oregon State made a call to the bullpen in the sixth, with Mitchell Verburg taking the mound. Pfennings threw five complete innings and allowed just one earned one while striking out six.
UCLA went to the bullpen with two outs in the seventh. Jesse Bergin exited having only allowed one earned run of the four Beavers runs. He rebounded after the tough three-run first to go 6 2/3 and he gave his team a chance to win the game and sweep the series. Bergin said after the game, "The first inning was rough, felt a little sped up. Once I got back to the dugout, I just collected myself and got my breath under control and got back to attacking them and just making pitches." Adrian Chaidez came on to strike out the final out of the seventh inning.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, the Beavers made another pitching change; they would use five pitchers on the afternoon to four hurlers for UCLA.
The Beavers added a run in the eighth on a Troy Claunch base hit to right field which made it 5-3. That would be the final score as Oregon State avoided the road sweep.
Looking at the weekend as a whole, UCLA head coach John Savage was pleased, "It's big. You beat a very good team, twice, that's a big deal in this league. We just didn't do enough to win today.”
“It was a very successful weekend. Whenever you lose on Sunday and win the series it feels like you lost the series but you didn't, you won the series. It just doesn't quite feel that way."
It is just one of those quirks, how losing can feel like winning and winning can still feel like losing. And it is why the game of baseball is never figured out and never will be.
Oregon State goes back to Corvallis with a record of 29-14 and 11-7 in the Pac-12 while UCLA is now 25-14 overall, 12-9 in the Pac-12.