Holding the Waves to one run through eight innings, the Bruins capsized in the ninth, allowing six runs to drop their first midweek contest of 2022.
Pepperdine’s (4-0) batters spent most of Tuesday night’s contest walking back to the dugout after a UCLA baseball (2-2) pitcher sent them down on strikes, but a second consecutive blown save from junior right-hander Charles Harrison and a grand slam from Waves’ shortstop John Peck sent the Bruins home with a 7-5 defeat.
Harrison attempted to pick up the save in Sunday night’s game against CSUN, but failed to do so, allowing a three-run home run to tie the game at three and send the contest to extra innings. Tuesday was similar – Harrison allowed two base hits to start the frame and launched a potential assist well past first base, bringing one run around to make it 3-2.
Coach John Savage decided he had seen enough, removing Harrison in favor of junior lefty Jake Saum.
Unable to stop the bleeding, Saum allowed a walk, creating a bases-loaded situation, and then he watched Peck launch his pitch past the palm trees behind the left-field wall to give the Waves a 6-3 lead. Pepperdine added on one more run before the frame ended to take a four-run advantage.
“Experienced pitchers not pitching very well,” Savage said following the game. “Jake [Saum] and starting with Charles [Harrison] – he really has not been able to get things going in the last couple of games. “
The Bruins’ arms carried a minimal hitting performance through the first eight innings, striking out 17 batters while the Waves only collected five hits.
Freshman pitcher Ethan Flanagan took the bump for the Bruins on Tuesday night. During his senior season at Santa Margarita Catholic High School (CA), the lefty was rehabbing a left-arm injury, limiting him to only hitting duties.
The leap from high school to collegiate baseball with little game time on the mound did not seem to phase Flanagan, who struck out eight of the 11 batters he faced before exiting in the fourth inning.
“I felt good going out there,” Flanagan said. “I was trying to be confident with what I have got. I battled an injury in high school, did not pitch in my senior year, it was more transitioning from being a hitter into a pitcher. I competed and I threw well with [my pitches]. “
Tredwell entered for Flanagan in the bottom of the fourth and continued the strikeout trend from where the lefty finished his night. Tossing 2.2 innings into the top of the seventh, Tredwell struck out seven of the eight batters he faced. The 6-foot-8 righty was pulled in favor of freshman right-hander Luke Jewett with one out in the top of the seventh, and the run of Ks continued.
Just as Tredwell did for Flanagan, Jewett closed the seventh inning and carried on the efficient pitching performance the previous freshman arms had started. Striking out two batters in the bottom of the eighth, Jewett raised UCLA’s strikeout tally to 17.
“Wow, just really really impressive,” Savage said. “All three guys were as impressive as I’ve seen. The future of those three guys – the ceiling is so high. They are all above 90 [mph] with breaking balls. They’ve got swing and miss pitches. I’ve not seen three freshmen pitch like that together in one night in a long time – and I’ve been doing this for 30 years. “
UCLA’s pitching provided the offense generous opportunities to add insurance to the scoreboard, however, the Bruins did not generate enough support.
Falling behind early in the top of the third on an RBI double from Peck, UCLA responded when the bats flipped back to the Bruins in the bottom of the frame.
Redshirt sophomore catcher Tommy Beres reached on a walk with one out and graduate left fielder Kenny Oyama provided the Bruins with another runner on base, lifting a bloop single between converging outfielders and the shortstop. Pepperdine’s starting pitcher Nathan Diamond balked, advancing Beres to third and Oyama to second.
After sophomore designated hitter Carson Yates struck out, junior right fielder Michael Curialle stepped up to the plate with a chance to drive both runners home or strand his teammates on base.
Curialle hit a slow, dribbling grounder to short, creating a likely bang-bang play at first base. The Waves were unable to record the out, with Peck sailing the ball past first base, allowing Beres to score and Oyama to follow right behind him. With just two hits, the Bruins had a 2-1 lead.
Following three scoreless innings, the Bruins tacked on a run in the bottom of the seventh. Between three bases-loaded at-bats by Oyama, graduate outfielder Jake Palmer and Curialle, only Palmer could scratch home a run, walking to score freshman center fielder Malakhi Knight from third.
Plenty of UCLA hitters got on base thanks to Pepperdine’s five hit-by-pitches and four walks and three errors, but it was too little, too late before the batters started to take advantage of the traffic.
The Bruins made a comeback bid in the bottom of the ninth, scoring two runs and even placing the winning run at the plate, but the attempt fell short.
“I think we were just not as competitive in the first half of the game,” Oyama said. “We got together and stuck to our approach and had Bruin at-bats in that final inning.”
UCLA will return Wednesday to host Omaha at 6 pm, marking a rare second midweek game. The Bruins had won 22 of their previous 23 midweek games dating back to 2018 entering Tuesday, but will have to try and start a new streak following the upset loss to the Waves.
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