LOS ANGELES — It isn’t an otherworldly being the Ghostbusters are chasing. It isn’t a crazed swamp creature that ends up on your front lawn. But the turf monster is something all ballplayers fear for it can strike at any moment and when it does, there’s usually little that can be done.
Even a senior playing a rivalry game on the day of his graduation isn’t immune. The turf monster reared its ugly head and took a bite out of USC second baseman Adam Landecker helping UCLA to a 2-1 victory Friday night at Dedeaux Field.
Landecker became a turf monster victim with two runners on base in the ninth inning of a tie game. The runners took off running as Brent Wheatley delivered a pitch to Kevin Kramer, who hit a hard grounder to Landecker’s right. Landecker slid to stop the ball and tried to pop up to his feet. When he did, a huge sod patch gave way and popped up with him.
The senior appeared to lose his balance as he tried to rise to his feet with the earth giving way while he simultaneously tried to pull the ball from his glove. Instead the ball shot out of his glove to his side. The botch was all speedy pinch runner Brett Urabe needed to get home with the winning run. All-American closer David Berg pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth to lower his ERA to 0.63 and record his 14th save of the season.
While the game was tight throughout, both teams squandered ample opportunities.
USC (19-31, 10-15 got on the board in the first inning when Landecker and junior James Roberts hit back-to-back doubles down the left field line. An error put two men on, but a double steal came up woefully short as Shane Zeile threw out Roberts by five feet. Uncharacteristically, the Bruins infield defense followed that with another error. But the Trojans were unable to capitalize with runners on the corners.
Timmy Robinson tripled to left-centerfield with one out in the second inning, but the Trojans couldn’t get him home as Adam Plutko stranded runners on the corners. Plutko wasn’t his sharpest, but he battled through, allowing only one earned run in six innings.
UCLA (35-15, 18-7) tied the game in the fourth inning when Cody Regis hit a slow chopper to second base with the bases loaded. Landecker didn’t even have a throw. USC starting pitcher Bob Wheatley got the next batter to fly out to leave the bases loaded. The Bruins loaded the bases again the next inning, but Wheatley got a groundout to end the inning.
The Trojans also threatened in the fifth inning. They put runners at second and third but couldn’t retake the lead. In the seventh inning, USC again put two men on, but got nothing. Relievers Zack Weiss and Berg didn’t allow a USC hitter to reach base in the final two frames.
Weiss improved to 2-1 while Brent Wheatley fell to 1-3 after being charged for an unearned run in the ninth. Big brother, Bob, received a no decision after allowing only one run on seven hits and four walks in seven innings.
Thanks to Oregon’s 3-0 win over Oregon State, UCLA’s win moves the Bruins two games back of both the Ducks and Beavers in the Pac-12 race.
Check out the 20-shot photo gallery from Friday night’s matchup under the lights: