BASEBALL

Arizona baseball: UCLA hands Cats 1st Pac-12 series defeat of season

2012-04-16T00:00:00Z 2012-04-16T07:03:26Z Arizona baseball: UCLA hands Cats 1st Pac-12 series defeat of seasonRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

During the first month and one week of the Pac-12 season, the Arizona Wildcats christened a new stadium, swept No. 2 Stanford at home, traveled to far-flung Oregon State and Utah and survived a scare from Washington State.

They won everywhere - at Hi Corbett Field, in Corvallis sleet and Salt Lake City snow - against the conference's reigning superpower and its newest team.

Until Sunday.

UCLA scored five consecutive runs and cruised to a 6-2 victory over fourth-ranked Arizona in front of 2,858 fans. The Bruins' second win in as many days handed the UA its first Pac-12 series loss since last May, when it dropped two of three at Stanford. The Wildcats (24-11 overall, 10-5 Pac-12) fell into a three-way tie for first place in the West's toughest baseball conference. No. 17 UCLA, which entered the weekend one game back, pulled even Sunday; Stanford defeated Oregon, preventing the Ducks from taking sole possession of first place.

Players said it's still too early, and the conference competition too tough, to be talking about winning the Pac-12.

"We're all human. We're not going to go 15-0" in the first half, UA catcher Riley Moore said.

The back-to-back losses "are two blips on the screen," Moore said.

More like pings. UCLA ripped 11 hits in Sunday's win, a night after registering 20 hits on the way to a 15-3 victory. The Bruins did it, again, in bunches: They strung together a walk and two straight singles in a one-run fourth inning, went double-single in a two-run fifth and collected three singles in a four-batter span while pulling away with a two-run seventh. Jeff Gelalich finished 3 for 5 with an RBI, and Beau Amaral - the son of former major-leaguer Rich Amaral - went 2 for 5 with a pair of RBIs.

UCLA (24-8, 10-5) received a solid start from Zach Weiss, who allowed two runs over six innings while striking out five. Three relievers - Grant Watson, Ryan Deeter and Scott Griggs - worked three near-perfect innings. Seth Mejias-Brean's two-out, bases-empty single in the ninth inning marked the only base runner against the trio. Mejias-Brean went 3 for 4, accounting for half of Arizona's hits.

Still, the Wildcats didn't exactly play poorly. Consider their competition.

Five of the Pac-12's 11 baseball-playing programs - Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State and Oregon - were ranked in Baseball America's most recent top 25 poll. The teams are a combined 117-51 this season.

The league is markedly tougher now than when Andy Lopez took over the UA program 11 years ago, and undeniably more challenging than the front-loaded 1980s, when the Wildcats won two national championships.

UCLA "is just like us," Lopez said.

"It's not like they're little sisters of the poor, and they're going home in a bus," he said. "They out-willed us."

They also overwhelmed starter James Farris. The UA right-hander allowed three runs over 4 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out two. The Bruins touched up reliever Stephen Manthei for two runs in 1 1/3 innings, forcing closer Mathew Troupe - who had yet to be used in the series - to pitch the final three innings.

Arizona can expect more of the same during the final half of Pac-12 play. The Wildcats will face Arizona State in a nonconference game Tuesday in Tempe, then travel to Washington for a three-game series in Seattle.

The UA closes its season with conference series against Oregon, Cal, USC and Arizona State.

The Wildcats could be alone in first. Or they could be, again, out-willed.

"We're going to find out in the next five, six weeks, right?" Lopez said. "It's an outstanding conference. It's tough."

Up next

• Who: Arizona at ASU

• When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

• Radio: 1290-AM

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