UCLA: Marc Navarro

UCLA offense struggles in 4-0 loss to Cal

May, 20, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- The college baseball season has entered the home stretch and UCLA can't seem to find the late-season magic that carried the Bruins to the College World Series finals last year.

And, it seems, they might be trying just a little too hard to find it.

UCLA lost to California, 4-0, Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, getting only three hits and wasting a solid effort by ace Gerrit Cole in the opening game of a crucial three-game Pac-10 Conference series.

The Bruins (29-20, 14-8) got only four runners past first base against California pitcher Erik Johnson, and struck out 10 times in the game -- seven times with runners on base. It was only the third time this season UCLA had been shut out, but it was the Bruins' fourth loss in six games.

"I think everybody is trying just a little too hard," Cole said. "I think everybody realizes how big the games are late in the season and I think everybody is pressing a little bit. In terms of the caring factor and the trying factor, I think it’s there, just maybe a little too much."

Maybe it's the pressure of trying to live up to the magical run of last season when UCLA won 13 of its last 17 regular season games and rode that momentum all the way to a national runner-up finish.

Case in point: With UCLA trialing, 1-0, Friday night, Bruins shortstop Pat Valaika was on first and was stealing when a 3-and-2 pitch to Jeff Gelealich got away from Cal catcher Chadd Krist. Valaika saw the passed ball, put his head down and headed for third base, ignoring the stop sign from third base coach T.J. Bruce, but Krist threw him out to end the inning.

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Baseball: Cal State Fullerton 5, UCLA 3

March, 29, 2011
FULLERTON -- Things may appear bleak now, but UCLA head coach John Savage is confident that brighter days are ahead.

He senses a shift coming.

The Bruins fell again Tuesday night, this time to local rival Cal State Fullerton, 5-3, before 1,910 at Goodwin Field. It was UCLA's seventh loss in the last 11 games and ninth on the season. Last spring, the national runner-up Bruins (11-9) didn't lose their ninth game until May 1.

"It's been frustrating," Savage said. "We've played a lot of tight ballgames. Tonight was a microcosm of our season."

UCLA, which began the season at No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and had dropped to No. 24 heading into Tuesday, had the tying runs on base in the eighth, but Marc Navarro popped out to end the threat. The Bruins stranded seven runners.

"We were close, one or two at-bats away," said junior Dean Espy, who had two of the Bruins' seven hits.

Despite the offensive struggles, Savage remains optimistic that his team will soon turn things around. UCLA went into Tuesday night touting a 1.97 team ERA -- 38 earned runs in 19 games -- while holding opponents to a .185 batting average.

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Rahmatulla double lifts UCLA past Cal Poly

March, 26, 2010
For once, it looked as if the UCLA baseball team might actually lose a game.

The Bruins trailed Cal Poly by one run and had only five outs left to do something about it. The fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium grew more tense pitch by pitch. Could this be it? Would UCLA finally lose its first game of the season?

Not quite.

Tyler Rahmatulla promptly stepped up to the plate and erased the doubt with one resounding swing of the bat, lining a double to the left-center field gap to score Marc Navarro and Niko Gallego and deliver UCLA a 4-3 lead. Closer Dan Klein shut the door with a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to clinch the Bruins' 19th straight victory.

It was about time UCLA baseball fans got a bit of drama. Rahmatulla, a sophomore second baseman who hits third in the lineup, was happy to supply the heroics.

UCLA Athletics Tyler Rahmatulla lined a two-run double Friday night to give UCLA (19-0) a 4-3 lead.

"I was looking for a pitch up to drive and I got it," he said. "The first pitch wasn't there, but I finally got a second pitch. I really have to give Niko and Blair [Dunlap] credit -- they had some incredible at-bats before me. They battled to get on base."

Sophomore right-hander Trevor Bauer battled as well after surrendering a towering three-run home run in the fourth that dug the Bruins a 3-0 hole. But the team's second ace kept UCLA within striking distance by going eight innings.

"I have a lot of confidence in the offense, so I knew if I just kept it at 3-0, they'd come through and get us enough runs to get the W," Bauer said.

After Steve Rodriguez grounded out to lead off the eighth, Dunlap singled on a sharp grounder to left field. Gallego followed with a stingy at-bat and poked a single to center, allowing pinch-runner Navarro to advance to third.

The stage was set for Rahmatulla. Here's the great call from John Ramey of the UCLA athletics radio network:

"Rahmatulla is night and day compared to what he was last year," coach John Savage said recently. "We knew he was going to be a special player, but last year was a difficult year for him -- he didn't play all the time, he had sporadic at-bats, he was a little tentative, which some freshmen are sometimes. He’s completely different guy offensively. He's using the middle of the field. He's not your prototypical No. 3 hitter but his numbers are showing that he belongs in that spot."

Rahmatulla is hitting a team-leading .437 (31 hits in 19 games).

"Feels good to put everything together," Rahmatulla said. "It's good to see that it's coming through."
At least one UCLA team had a good showing on national television Saturday night.

Unlike its basketball colleagues (who were embarrassed in ESPN's primetime game), the UCLA baseball team thrived on the MLB Network by soundly defeating Bethune Cookman 10-3 in Compton.

A night after routing Southern 16-2, the Bruins' bats were at it again. Sophomore catcher Steve Rodriguez blasted two home runs to bring his season total to three in two games. The No. 9 hitter who is mostly known for his ability to handle a pitching staff is on pace for a breakout campaign after hitting two home runs all of last season. Designated hitter Marc Navarro joined the hit parade by belting his first career home run.

Sophomore pitcher Trevor Bauer had a stellar night -- minus two pitches he probably wants back. The right-hander was tagged for two long home runs, but for the most the most part, he mixed his pitches well. Bauer kept batters guessing with a slew of curveballs and change-ups to strike out 13.

UCLA returns to Jackie Robinson Stadium on Sunday afternoon to face Cal State Northridge. Junior left-hander Rob Rasmussen, who had a solid summer in the Cape Cod League, is the scheduled starter. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.



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