Playing the No. 1 ranked team in the country competitively for nine innings is usually a great feat, but for the No. 8 ranked ECU team, Friday night felt like a win that got away against the Bruins.
ECU (25-8) held a three-run lead at one point but missed opportunities, with nine runners left on base, came back to bite in a 7-5 loss to UCLA (25-6) at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles.
The missed opportunities are best embodied by two innings, the first and ninth innings. ECU had Lane Hoover and Spencer Brickhouse on with one out when Alec Burleson singled. Hoover tried scoring from second but was thrown out and ECU ended up with no runs in the inning and the score remained at 0-0.
The ninth inning saw the Pirates attempt to mount a comeback. ECU had the bases loaded with two outs in the inning but Turner Brown flew out to end the threat and end the game. Burleson had singled earlier in the inning but for the second time since that first inning outfield assist, ECU head coach Cliff Godwin held a runner up at third.
ECU took control of the game with four runs with two outs in the fourth inning. Trailing 2-1, ECU got the bases loaded when Hoover singled to left field. Brickhouse got a grounder to get through the infield, scoring Baker and Packard to take a 3-2 lead. Burleson followed it up by driving in two more runs to make it 5-2. Burleson finished 3-for-4 with three RBI.
UCLA starter Zach Pettway was lifted after just 3.2 innings as he walked a season-high six batters. Pettway normally goes deep into the game, as his previous shortest outing of the season was six innings. Pettway gave up four runs.
The ECU offense went cold, and Bruins pitching retired 13 Pirate batters in a row after that. The UCLA bullpen, which is very good, gave up just one run and three hits in 5.1 innings.
ECU starter Jake Agnos pitched well. Agnos went 5.2 innings and had only given up two runs at that point. Agnos had two on and nobody out in the sixth but a pair of strikeouts got to two outs. Godwin elected to take Agnos out of the game in order to get UCLA’s Michael Toglia, a switch hitter who hasn’t performed as well this season from the left side of the plate, to face a right-handed pitcher.
So in came Sam Lanier and the Pirates bullpen wasn’t nearly as effective as the Bruins. The decision hurt the Pirates as Toglia launched a three-run home to tie it at 5-5. Toglio later delivered again, this time with Evan Voliva on the mound, with a double off the wall with two outs in the eighth inning to give UCLA its final 7-5 lead.
Toglia finished 3-for-4 with five RBI as he almost single-handedly paced the UCLA offense.
UCLA took a 1-0 lead over ECU in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI triple by Matt McLain.
Packard led off the third inning with a single. Hoover laid down a sac bunt (38th sac bunt of the season, a category which ECU ranks second nationally on the season) to move him to second and then he advanced to third on a passed ball. ECU tied it 1-1 in the top of the third as Alec Burleson hit a sac fly to left field to score Packard.
UCLA quickly regained the lead 2-1 with a solo home run from Noah Cardenas. His first career home run. The first three hits allowed by Agnos were all extra-base hits.
Voliva (4-2) got the loss for ECU while Nate Hadley (5-0) got the win for UCLA. The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday, with the first game beginning at 5 p.m. and the second game immediately after.