Photos Courtesy of David Cohen.
FULLERTON, Calif. — Austin Diemer charged in on Kevin Kramer’s line drive in the 10th inning Friday evening at Goodwin Field. Brian Carroll initially began to sprint from first base toward second but realized the ball was hanging up. He put on the brakes, stopping about 40 feet off first.
As the ball began descended toward the spot Diemer was about to be, Carroll began to return back to first. But he only took two steps before reversing course once more. Diemer tried to catch it straight on with his glove tilted forward rather than turning his glove sideways or attempting a basket catch.
Kramer’s sinking liner hit Dimer’s glove. Instead of sticking in his webbing when he tried to clasp down on the ball, the ball hit the palm of his glove and slipped off the fingertips as Diemer attempted to close the mitt. Carroll and Kramer were unable to take extra bases as the ball fell right behind Diemer, but the “hit,” as it was ruled by the official scorer, set up Eric Filia’s fourth single — a game-winning grounder through the right side.
“[Davis] threw me two high fastballs and I knew he was going to come with a curveball,” Filia said. “He left it up and I stayed short with it and hit it into right field.”
UCLA held a 3-1 lead heading into the eighth inning after a special performance from junior starter Adam Plutko, who was dealing with the disappointment of not being drafted in the first 10 rounds of the 2013 MLB Draft that concluded for the day prior to Friday’s game.
The normally impeccable Bruins’ bullpen allowed back-to-back leadoff walks that led to a pair of runs scoring to tie the game. But after a scoreless ninth inning, UCLA took advantage of a dropped fly ball and tacked two runs on the board to take the victory.
Carroll singled to left with one out to start the tenth-inning rally. Kramer roped the sinking line drive to right field and then Filia brought home the go-ahead run. Pat Valaika followed with a sacrifice fly to right-centerfield for his second RBI of the day.
In the bottom half of the inning, a bunt single by Carlos Lopez and a single by Matt Chapman put two on with one out for the Titans’ two leading run producers in J.D. Davis and Michael Lorenzen, who have combined for more than 100 RBI this year. UCLA closer David Berg bared down and struck both out to end the game, getting Davis looking at an inside slider to end an 11-pitch at bat and forcing Lorenzen to swing over a fastball that bared down and in below his hands — the same pitch Berg said he threw to Lorenzen in the eighth inning when Lorenzen beat out an infield single to tie the game.
The Bruins are now one win away from returning to the College World Series for the third time in four years.
UCLA scored first with a run in the third inning. Shane Zeile led off with a double to left field and moved to third on a sacrifice. Rather than possibly bringing in on the corners, Fullerton first baseman Carlos Lopez was playing deep. When Brenton Allen rolled over a ball, Lopez got tricked by an in-between hop and the ball got by him. Zeile scored and UCLA never looked back.
The Bruins added a run the next inning when Eric Filia reached on an infield single, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on a two-out single by Pat Gallagher.
Leading 2-1, UCLA added an insurance run for the bullpen in the top of the eighth inning when Richy Pedroza couldn’t handle a hard hit one-hopper to short and could only get the runner at second rather than turning a double play.
“They beat us. We gave them too much,” Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook said. “When you are at this point in the season and you give away too much stuff, you lose and that is what happened. They were the better team tonight.”
Fullerton scored one in the bottom half of the fourth inning on an RBI single by Anthony Hutting, but it was the only time the Titans were able to do anything with runners on base against Plutko.
Despite allowing a baserunner in every inning except the fourth inning, Plutko allowed only the unearned run in the fourth inning before turning the ball over to UCLA’s vaunted bullpen.
“Plutko battled tonight. A very emotional night for Adam,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “Three-time PAC-12 all-conference pitcher to sit there and not get drafted. It was difficult to say the least. It makes this night even more special.”
But the Bruins’ relievers couldn’t lock it down to give the junior his sixth career postseason victory.
James Kaprielian walked the only batter he faced and Savage wasted no time going to his closer, Berg, for a six-out save.
“We wanted to get through that eighth without using him,” Savage said. “Unfortunately, on the road, up two, with a runner on first, you can’t leave an All-American in the bullpen.”
But an amped up Berg couldn’t calm his nerves to begin. He walked Lopez on five pitches. After a sacrifice by Chapman, Davis trimmed the UCLA lead to 3-2 with an RBI groundout.
Lorenzen followed with a Baltimore chop. Knowing he would have to rush the throw to get the quick Lorenzen, Kramer came forward on the ball and misjudged the giant hop. Valaika cut the ball off, keeping the ball in the infield, but he didn’t even attempt a throw with Lorenzen running. The runner from third scored to tie the game, eventually sending the Titans and Bruins to extra innings.
“Lopez drew a walk and they bunted,” Berg said. “I made some good pitches to the next couple guys but they put it in play. Lorenzen put it right where we couldn’t make a play. He did a great job. From there I knew I couldn’t let another thing like that happen.”
Check out the 18-photo gallery shot by David Cohen of BHE Photos of the action in Friday’s Fullerton (CA) Super Regional opener:
UCLA head coach John Savage is joined by sophomores Eric Filia and David Berg for the postgame presser. Savage talks about the team’s victory along with the difficulties of having the distraction of the draft right in the middle of the postseason.
Cal State Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook is joined by junior outfielder Michael Lorenzen and freshman starting pitcher Justin Garza: