June 3, 2012
LOS ANGELES - The University of New Mexico baseball team offense was shut down Saturday night, as they managed only one hit off UCLA starter Nick Vander Tuig in a 7-1 defeat to the Bruins.
The loss snapped UNM's 10-game winning streak and means the Lobos (37-23) are now one loss away from seeing their season end. They will need to win three consecutive games to advance out of the Los Angeles regional and into the first super regional in school history.
Vander Tuig struck out 11 in eight innings and allowed his only hit of the game to Trey Porras leading off the eighth inning.
"The kid pitched his tail off against us tonight," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "You have to tip your cap to him. He located his fastball, he cut his fastball, and I thought, unfortunately for us, it was a great pitching performance by that young man on the other team."
Not many pitchers or teams have stymied the Lobos' offense the way Vander Tuig and UCLA (44-14) did. UNM came into the game fourth in the nation in batting with a collective .332 average and leading the nation in hits with 723. They had recorded double digit hits in 11 straight games, but that streak came to a screeching halt Saturday as they managed only two, one each of Vander Tuig and reliever David Berg.
"He pitched well," Porras said of Vander Tuig's performance. "He got his fastball to the low 90s when he wanted to, but he did a good job mixing it up, mixing the change up with his slider or curve ball. He worked both sides of the plate very well. Like coach said, we just have to tip our hat to him."
UNM starter Gera Sanchez went five innings, allowing four runs on nine hits. He struck out six and walked one. He suffered his third loss of the season.
UCLA, the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, opened the scoring right away. Leadoff man Beau Amaral got it started with a single through the right side. Tyler Heineman was hit by a pitch to put two men on. A sacrifice bunt moved both men up a base. Cleanup batter Jeff Gelalich then drove home Amaral with a fielder's choice as Heineman was thrown out at third.
The Bruins added to their lead in the fifth. Back-to-back seeing-eye singles put men on first and second for UCLA. With one out Trevor Brown knocked a double over Ben Woodchick's head in left to score both runners. Pat Valaika then singled to right center to score Brown and increase the lead to 4-0.
The Lobos finally got on the board in their half of the fifth, but they did so without the benefit of a hit. Ryan Padilla led off with a towering pop fly down the left field line. Valaika, the Bruins' shortstop, and Cody Keefer, the left fielder, both converged on the ball. There appeared to be some miscommunication, however, as Valaika cut right in front of Keefer just as the ball was coming down. This caused the left fielder to misplay the ball and allow Padilla to reach second on the error. He advanced to third on a fly out to center by Josh Melendez and score on a ground out to first by Porras.
Rudy Jaramillo came on to relieve Sanchez in the sixth, but it was more of the same for UCLA. A groundball single, a sacrifice bunt, and yet another groundball single made the score 5-1. A double by Keefer drove in another run, and he scored on a single by Gelalich to put UNM in a 7-1 hole.
The Lobos only managed a few hard-hit balls all game off Vander Tuig. DJ Peterson blasted a pitch deep to left in the first, but he got under it just a little and it was caught at the wall by Keefer. A line out to center by Porras in the second and a deep fly out by Melendez in the seventh were the only other times a Lobo made solid contact until Porras' double.
Peterson added an infield single in the ninth for the only other Lobo hit.
The defeat means the Lobos are now one loss away from ending their season. They will face Creighton University Sunday at 4 p.m. (MT). The loser will be eliminated from the postseason while the winner gets another shot at UCLA later that day at approximately 8 p.m. (MT). Josh Walker will start against the Bluejays for the Lobos.
"I thought our kids battled and competed, and we're going to come out tomorrow and win," Birmingham said.
Game notes: It was the 62nd career appearance for Sanchez, tied for sixth all-time at UNM, and the 65th appearance for Jaramillo, fifth all-time ... Sanchez made his 21st appearance of the season, tying him for the team lead with Hobie McClain and Bobby Mares, who also appeared in his 21st game of the season Saturday night ... UCLA recorded 17 hits, the most UNM has allowed in a game since allowing 18 to New Mexico State on Mar. 6 ... Peterson recorded an infield single in the ninth and now leads the nation with 104 hits.