Having reached the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2000, the Loyola Marymount University baseball team is now a win away from the Super-Regionals, after upsetting UCLA, the country’s top-ranked team, 3-2, on June 1.

It was the Lions’ second win of the double-elimination tournament at Jackie Robinson Stadium on UCLA’s Westwood campus, and provided a measure of revenge after the Bruins had twice beaten LMU during the regular season, 5-0 in February and 9-4 in March.

With the victory, the Lions (33-23 overall) advanced to the championship round of the Los Angeles Regional, scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 2 against the winner of UCLA vs. Baylor (scheduled at noon June 2). If LMU loses, the teams will play again June 3.

In its win over UCLA, the Lions again received solid pitching which has carried them through the post-season, starting with their surprising sweep in the West Coast Conference Tournament. The combination of junior starter Josh Agnew and sophomore relievers CJ Fernandezees and Nick Frasso permitted just seven hits and two runs to one of the country’s best offenses.

LMU, meanwhile, collected a run in the first on Trevin Esquerra’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Nick Sogard. After UCLA took a 2-1 lead with runs in the second and third, Esquerra doubled home Brandon Shearer in the last of the third to tie the score.

Fernandezees then worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh, and in the bottom of the inning LMU freshman Ethan Patrick singled. Pinch runner Ryan Ruley was bunted to second by Dylan Hirsch, and Cooper Uhl singled to right to drive home Ruley with the go-ahead run.

In the top of the eighth, Frasso stranded runners at second and third, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his tenth save of the year, handing UCLA starter Jack Rolston his first loss of the season after 11 wins.

On May 31, LMU opened the tournament with a 3-1 win over Baylor, behind Codie Paiva’s four-hit pitching over seven and two-thirds innings, and Frasso retiring all four batters he faced. Esquerra’s double and Tommy Delgado’s single drove in two runs in the sixth that broke a 1-1 tie after each side had scored in the second, LMU on Hirsch’s sacrifice fly.

That same day, UCLA defeated Omaha 5-2, and the next day Baylor blasted Omaha 24-6, setting up an elimination game between the Bruins and Bears at noon June 2. The winner of that game advanced to play LMU at six that evening. If LMU wins, the Lions move on to the Super-Regional, but an LMU loss would necessitate a deciding game on June 3.

Each of the eight Super-Regionals is a two-team, best two-of-three format, with the eight winners moving on to the College World Series in Omaha. LMU’s last trip to the CWS was in 1986.

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News). 

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