Walks doom Baylor as Bears drop opener to UCLA

Sophomore first baseman Andy Thomas applies a tag on a pickoff move against Houston Baptist on Feb. 17. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor

The Baylor pitching staff struggled to find the strike zone all game long as the Bears dropped the opener of a three-game set with No. 11 UCLA 5-2 Friday night at Jackie Robinson Field.

The Bears issued 10 free passes to the Bruins, but it was the ninth and 10th that finally dug Baylor’s grave.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning, it was sophomore Jacob Ashkinos who put the Bruins in business, issuing a pair of walks to open the frame. Baylor then turned to redshirt junior right-hander Collin Sharp as it clung to a one run advantage. Sharp got one out via a sacrifice bunt and another by strikeout, but he also hit a batter to load the bases.

Then it was the ninth free pass to sophomore first baseman Michael Toglia that tied the game at 2 and the 10th to sophomore designated hitter Kyle Cueller that put the Bruins in front 3-2.

Sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf then gave UCLA all the insurance it needed by delivering a two-run single to left field, putting the Bruins in front 5-2.

Toglia was a thorn in Baylor’s side, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances. He recorded singles in the first and third innings, put UCLA on the board with an RBI double in the seventh and drew walks in the fifth and eighth innings.

Toglia continued his excellent start, pushing his average to a scorching .591 on the season through five games for the Bruins.

Sophomore outfielder Jeremy Ydens finished two for four at the plate from the two-hole in the lineup, raising his average to .391.

Despite coming away with the runs late when they needed them, the Bruins left 13 on base and were just two of 12 with runners in scoring position.

The eighth inning collapse by the Baylor bullpen erased what was another strong effort from sophomore Cody Bradford.

Bradford, was not as sharp as he was in last Friday’s 1-0 win over Houston Baptist, falling behind early and often on the UCLA hitters, but was able to come up with the big pitches when he needed them.

Bradford only lasted five innings, while throwing 100 pitches, but kept UCLA off the scoreboard. Bradford allowed four hits and four walks while striking out seven. He has yet to give up a run in 13 innings on the mound this season.

Baylor got on the board first, scoring two runs in the sixth and forcing UCLA to turn to its bullpen.

Sophomore Davis Wendzel, who finished with two hits in four at-bats, delivered a one out double and then came around to score on an error by the Bruins’ shortstop. After a walk put runners on first and second with two outs, junior second baseman Josh Bissonette shot an RBI single to right field, putting the Bears in front 2-0.

But that was all the success the Bears had with runners on base. Baylor left nine on base and was one of five with runners in scoring position and just two of 13 with men on base.

Baylor had a golden opportunity for insurance in the top of the eighth as the Bears loaded the bases for the first time, but junior righty Brian Gadsby struck out sophomore first baseman Andy Thomas to end the threat.

Junior outfielder T.J. Raguse reached base four times with a pair of singles and walks for the Bears, but didn’t get much help elsewhere besides Wendzel and Bissonette.

Sophomore catcher Shea Langeliers struggled again, striking out three times in five trips, including to end the game. Langeliers, who appeared on all the Pre-Season All-American lists, is hitting just .136 through five games this season.

Baylor (2-2) looks to even the series as it sends junior Kyle Hill to the mound on Saturday against Bruins’ junior righty-hander Jon Olsen. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m.