Cal Poly loses fly ball, lead and game to UCLA

June 2, 2013

UCLA Lights

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The lights shined brightly upon Cal Poly Saturday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Through the first five innings, the Mustangs handled all the pressure that came with a regional matchup against UCLA at the Bruins’ ballpark. Cal Poly held a 4-0 lead, and Mustang starter Matt Imhof had not even allowed a hit.

But, with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning and UCLA designated hitter Kevin Williams at the plate with the Bruins trailing 4-1, the lights shined too brightly for Cal Poly right field Nick Torres to handle. Williams hit a high fly ball that Torres lost sight of in the stadium lights. Three runs scored, and the Mustang lead evaporated.

“We were kind of concerned before that ball actually about the lighting,” Torres said. “It just got up above the lights, and I had no idea where it was”

Torres initially took a step in after Williams hit the fly ball.

“Off the bat I just saw a pop up,” he said. “It didn’t look like he hit it too well”

But, the ball sailed over the Mustang right fielder’s head.

“It wasn’t until the ball got down below the lights until I saw it again,” Torres said.

The Cal Poly sophomore then sprinted back toward the warning track, but not in time to make the inning ending grab.

Mustang closer Reed Reilly, who relieved Imhof in the sixth inning, then induced a shallow fly ball to right, which Torres did catch to end the inning.

In the seventh, UCLA scored two runs off Reilly to take a 6-4 lead. The Bruins scored both runs with two outs, the first coming on an infield single hit so weekly that it left Mustang shortstop Peter Van Gansen no time to make a play. Reilly then walked in a run while facing the next batter.

Earlier in the inning, Reilly made a spectacular off balance throw on bunt laid down by UCLA center fielder Brian Carroll, but Mustang first baseman John Schuknecht failed to keep his foot on the bag.

After the Bruins took the 6-4 lead, UCLA head coach John Savage handed the ball to his two star relievers, who did not allow a single Mustang to reach base over the final three innings.

James Kaprielian used a mid-90s fastball to strike out four Mustangs in two innings, and Bruin closer David Berg used his submarine delivery to strike out two in the ninth to pick up his 20th save of the year.

The 6-4 loss means Cal Poly must beat San Diego Sunday afternoon, then defeat UCLA Sunday evening and win another game against UCLA Monday evening in order to advance to a super regional. Another loss in the Los Angeles Regional will eliminate Cal Poly from the NCAA Tournament.

Mustang head coach Larry Lee will give the ball to freshman Casey Bloomquist to start the game against San Diego, but the alignment of the pitching staff beyond Bloomquist is unknown.

Cal Poly has struggled all season to find a reliable third starting pitcher behind Joey Wagman and Imhof.

Despite not allowing a hit through the first five innings Saturday, Imhof did not make it out of the sixth. Lee pulled Imhof with one out in the sixth after he allowed UCLA to score one run and load the bases. Reilly came in and struck out the first batter he faced before allowing the fly ball to right that unloaded the bases.

Imhof said he was tipping his pitches and that UCLA batters became aware of it by the fourth or fifth inning. Williams said neither he, nor his teammates noticed Imhof tipping his pitches.

Cal Poly will face San Diego for the second time of the weekend at 2 p.m. Sunday. The winner will play UCLA at 6 p.m. On Friday, the Mustangs beat the Toreros 9-2.