No. 11-ranked Arizona continued its Pac-12 schedule Friday night against UCLA, but untimely errors and one huge Bruin swing of the bat proved to be too much of a hill to climb, in a 10-2 loss in the first of a three-game series Friday night at Hi Corbett Field.
UCLA attacked Arizona starter TJ Nichols in the first. An error by second baseman Tyler Casagrande on a hard-hit ball by leadoff hitter Cody Schrier put Nichols in the stretch immediately.
Nichols looked like he was going to get out of the inning unscathed until Daylen Reyes singled with two-outs and then JonJon Vaughns doubled to left-center to put UCLA up 2-0.
Errors and slow starts have continued to be a problem for Arizona to start the season.
Chip Hale referenced the slow starts and early deficits, and while the Wildcats have been able to overcome those with a potent lineup, Friday night was another example of things that they need to avoid moving forward.
“We’ll put our heads together as coaches and see if we can get them better prepared before the game because we are just not just not coming out and playing very crisp,” Hale said
From the second inning on, it was a back and forth pitchers’ duel. Four scoreless innings on both sides followed the early offensive eruption.
That all changed in the sixth inning. After Nichols gave up a walk to load the bases, Hale went to his bullpen and right-hander Quinn Flanagan.
UCLA shortstop Cody Schrier jumped all over a pitch from Flanagan and sent it deep to right-center field for a grand slam, pushing the lead to 6-0 for the Bruins.
Flanagan did not last long. After giving up a double to Malakhi Knight, he was replaced with Eric Orloff. Hale said the quick decision to move relieve Flanagan was not so much to do with the outcome of the two batters he faced, but to allow for him to be used in the second game of the series.
Nichols went 5 1/3 innings, giving up five hits, five runs, and striking out six on 99 pitches.
UCLA’s starter Jake Brooks was solid, allowing only two runs in 6 2/3 innings of work.
Although Arizona was down early, it did keep punching to try and fight out of the proverbial corner.
If you were to look at the score in a vacuum, you would think that Arizona would’ve been out hit by a large margin. However, that was not the case.
Arizona hits: 9
UCLA hits: 9
Hale was happy with the team’s approach at the plate, regardless of the lack of offense.
“We struck out a lot less,” he said. “I felt like we had really good at-bats. I think that there were a lot of hard-hit balls, a lot of hard outs, that is one of the positives”
In both the sixth and seventh innings, they capitalized on triples from Tony Bullard and Tanner O’Tremba. Both were hard hit balls that just missed the red line painted throughout the outfield wall which signals a home run.
Bullard’s triple was with no one on and got him into scoring position, brining the Hi Corbett home crowd to their feet for the first time of the night. Mac Bingham then drove him in on a ground out to second base to score the first run of the game for Arizona.
O’Tremba’s triple came after a Daniel Susac double and brought home the second run of the game for Arizona. The Wildcats seemed to be chipping away at the lead slowly, but both innings ended quietly for the hitters and were unable to capitalize further.
UCLA was able to tack on four more runs in the top of the ninth, all but putting the game away and capped off the night by retiring the last three Arizona hitters 1-2-3.
Arizona (16-6, 5-2) and UCLA (14-7, 2-2) will match up for the second game of their three-game series on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Garrett Irvin (2-1, 3.25 ERA) will take the mound for Arizona.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.