- Blair Angulo, Reporter, WeAreSC.com
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Cal State Fullerton's Nick Ramirez kept going to first, throwing over there with his back against the wall, the Titans clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth. UCLA's Blair Dunlap, representing the winning run, kept retreating to the bag, perhaps getting a read on the left-hander Ramirez while teammate Beau Amaral stood on third hoping to tie the score.
No outs -- all the pressure on Ramirez to make a pitch to No. 3 hitter Tyler Rahmatulla with 2,077 fans on the edge of their seats in the opener of the Los Angeles Super Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday night.
Ramirez went to first again and again, Dunlap finally bit and took off for second but never made it there and Fullerton ended up with a 4-3 victory.
"It was a straight steal, a jab and go," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "We gambled and lost."
"I just had a feeling that they were going to try something there," Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano said.
One out, but all the pressure still on Ramirez with Amaral standing 90 feet from home and Rahmatulla, who had doubled twice in the game, zeroed in at the plate.
A few offspeed pitches and a defensive replacement later, Rahmatulla was walking back to the dugout with his head hanging. Two outs.
"My heart was jumping out of my jacket, I think," Serrano said.
And UCLA's heart was partly shattered, the No. 6 national seed still two wins away from Omaha and a loss from elimination.
"It's a tough loss, but our guys have bounced back all season," Savage said. "We're here for a reason. We believe in the program, so we're not going to change a whole lot."
The Bruins had their opportunities. UCLA loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh and seemed to be getting to Fullerton starter Noe Ramirez. Yet Serrano decided to stick with lanky right-hander from East Los Angeles.
"You go with mentality in those situations," Serrano said.
Noe Ramirez responded, striking out Steve Rodriguez and Amaral and getting Dunlap to line out to Christian Colon.
"My changeup felt great off my hand all night," said Noe Ramirez, who struck out 13 in seven innings.
Meanwhile, UCLA's starter Gerrit Cole left the game in the seventh after giving up four runs and five hits. The wheels didn't completely fall off in the Titans' three-run fourth, but the bolts began to loosen. Matt Grace and Erik Goeddel backed up Cole with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
UCLA finally cut the deficit to one when Noe Ramirez left in the eighth but failed to capitalize in the disastrous ninth.
"We're disappointed, but we're not down and we're not out," Savage said.