Everyone was stunned that previously undefeated No. 1 Texas Baseball lost to UCLA 5-1 at the Shriner’s Children’s College Classic in Houston, TX. Six pitchers from Texas' bullpen with limited college pitching experience allowed UCLA to score five runs on nine hits. Before the game started, all six pitchers had a combined total 14 innings pitched and 226 pitches thrown. For two pitchers it was their first time on the mound in college.
Texas had five hits and one run from Ivan Melendez's towering MLB like home run in the bottom of the fourth that tied the score 1-1.
Swing: Ivan Melendez's swing looks like he is slicing through butter.
Originally, Tanner Witt was expected to start, but was replaced by sophomore left-hander #13 Lucas Gordon who pitched four innings, threw 63 pitches of which 44 were strikes, gave up four hits, and one run. Gordon had the most pitching experience of all six.
In the fifth inning, redshirt freshman #47 Lebarron Johnson Jr replaced Gordon. Johnson and became the losing pitcher of record, even though he only faced three batters in the fifth inning. For Johnson, it was his fourth opportunity to pitch having had only thrown a total of 48 pitches over three innings in his college career before the game.
The Fifth Inning
Johnson faced his first of three UCLA batters, Darius Perry, threw three balls, two strikes, then Perry fouled twice and flied out to center field for the first out. Next batter Kenny Oyama had 148 career base-on-balls and was 10-for-10 in stolen bases, before facing Johnson.
Johnson walks Oyama who then takes advantage of Johnson's big leg kick in his wind-up to batter Jake Palmer and steals second base. On Johnson’s next pitch, Oyama steals third giving him 12-for-12 in stolen bases.
Jake Palmer hits a single to center and gets an RBI when Oyama scored from third.
That was enough for pitching coach Shawn Allen who called in freshman left-hander #28 Ace Whitehead (what a great name for a pitcher) for his first college pitching assignment.
Ace Whitehead pitched to UCLA shortstop Cody Schrier who flied out to center to give UCLA out number two. Whitehead pitches to Michael Curialle who singled to left field which allowed Palmer to advance to third.
Whitehead’s second pitch to Daylen Reyes careens off Texas sophomore catcher Kimble Schuessler that sent Palmer home to score and Curialle to second.
Daylen Reyes hit a grounder on the next pitch hard to third baseman Skylar Messinger who collided with Curialle and is called out for interference.
Whitehead faced two UCLA batters in the top of the sixth, Carson Yates tripled to left center and Ethan Gourson doubled to left that sent Yates home and UCLA up 4-1.
Texas calls in right-hander #36 Daniel Blair from Peachtree City, Ga. Blair threw two strikeouts and a fly out to retire the side. One of the strikeouts was Kenny Oyama. Blair pitched the entire seventh inning, faced five batters and struck out two more for a total of four strikeouts in 35 pitches (20 strikes) thrown to eight batters.
Top of the eight, junior right-hander #45 Coy Cobb replaced Daniel Blair and took the mound for the first time in his college carrier. Cobb strikes out the first batter, second grounds out to shortstop and he strikes out the third. Cobb stays in for the ninth and hits Oyama, then Palmer before Schrier flied out to right field that advanced Oyama to third. Curialle has a sacrifice bunt that allowed Oyama to score and Palmer to advance to second to make the score 5-1 UCLA with two outs.
Sophomore left-hander #47 Sam Walbridge replaced Cobb with two outs, score 5-1, and a runner on second. Walbridge throws two balls, a strike, and his last pitch, pinch-hitter Jake Mober popped up for the final out.
Texas did not score in the ninth and they have their first loss of the season.
The Big Take Aways
Coach David Pierce and assistant coach Sean Allen knew what they were doing rotating the six pitchers. Though they anticipated Texas hitting would have produced more runs. Each pitcher needed game experience so they could discover specific areas they could work on. Based on our observations they areas are, though coach Pierce, Allen, and each pitcher will know exactly:
- 13 - Lucas Gordon - 70% of pitches were strikes
- 57 - Lebarron Johnson Jr - wind-up
- 28 - Ace Whitehead - more strikes and ball placement
- 36 - Daniel Blair - more pitching...struck out four
- 45 - Coy Cobb - control, stop hitting batters, has smooth strike
- 47 - Sam Wallbridge - more pitching
The NCAA still ranks Texas No.1
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