Tyler Johnson just wasn’t feeling it tonight.
The senior right-hander gave up five runs against the University of California, Los Angeles in the first inning of game one of the College World Series. Despite having several chances, the Seawolves could not overcome the start, and they fell to UCLA 9-1.
“I just wasn’t on today,” Johnson said. “It was just me being off today and a good UCLA team took advantage. I think every once in a while you’re going to have a bad game, and that’s what happened today.”
The UCLA loss snapped Johnson’s twelve-game winning streak, the longest win streak in the nation entering the CWS. His record is now 12-2 after the loss.
Johnson went a mere 2.1 innings, giving up a season-high seven runs.
“It’s mostly on me today,” he said. “I didn’t do a very good job of throwing strikes today. When I needed to make a pitch, I didn’t, and that is the big reason why – it’s just one of those things where you’re just off and things aren’t rolling your way.”
UCLA capitalized on Johnson’s bad day right away.
After putting the Seawolves away in order to start the game, the Bruins opened with a two hits, a single up the middle from Beau Amaral and a single to left from Tyler Heineman.
Johnson walked the next batter, Cody Keefer, to load the bases with no outs.
Amaral and Heineman came home after a single to right from the fourth batter and the Cincinnati Reds’ first round draft pick, Jeff Gelalich.
He was followed by clean up hitter Trevor Brown, who singled to right center to bring Keefer home.
A sac bunt from Pat Valaika gave the Seawolves their first out of the game but brought Gelalich home.
Stony Brook got another out when DH Cody Regis grounded out to Johnson, but Brown advanced to third.
He scored off a single from Kevin Kramer, who went 2-for-2 in the game.
Kevin Williams joined Kramer on base after reaching first on a fielder’s choice. The ball was hit to freshman Cole Peragine at shortstop, who threw the ball to second but did not have enough time to catch Kramer.
The next batter, lead-off hitter Amaral, also hit the ball to Peragine; however, this time he made the out at second.
“The game could not have started any better for us,” said UCLA head coach John Savage, whose team batted around in the first inning. “We were fortunate. We had some plate discipline, had some quality at-bats and we were fortunate we got some runs.”
It looked like the Seawolves would fight back in the second inning when junior Maxx Tissenbaum and freshman Kevin Krause each hit singles to open the inning.
A sac bunt from freshman Peragine put runners in scoring position, and fellow freshman Steven Goldstein walked to load the bases with one out.
However, sophomore Kevin Courtney then struck out. He was followed by senior Sal Intagliata, who popped out to end the inning.
“Even if they hadn’t scored as much as they did that early, you go up against a team like that, you’re only going to get a couple of chances to score,” SBU head coach Matt Senk said. “We had some chances with people in scoring position with less than two outs, and we didn’t take advantage of that.”
Even after the Seawolves replaced Johnson after 2.1 innings with junior Jasvir Rakkar, UCLA continued to tack on runs.
Rakkar gave up two runs in the third and another in the fifth. He was replaced by sophomore Joshua Mason in the seventh, and Mason gave up another run in the eighth.
Senior Pat Cantwell hit a solo home run in the third to put SBU on the board, his second of the season and the Seawolves’ first of the CWS, but that ended up being their only run of the game.
They could have had a chance in the fifth, when Courtney walked and Intagliata doubled down the line to put runners in scoring position with no outs.
But Jankowski hit a ground ball to first, where Brown stepped on the bag and gunned it to home to get Courtney out on a controversial double play.
“The first baseman made a great play on that ball. He did everything right,” Jankowski said. “I thought Kevin might have gotten his foot in there, just by how he reacted after the play.
“I guess that was a big turning point in the game,” he continued. “Not being able to manufacture a run there kind of hurt us.”
It did. Stony Brook only had one more hit the rest of the game, a single from Tissenabum, making their final total 5 hits to UCLA’s 9.
“We needed to do a better job,” Senk said. “I thought we could’ve shifted momentum in our direction, but we were never able to gather any momentum at all.”
Interestingly, the UCLA team attributed part of the win to the fact that scoring so much so early “took the crowd away” from Stony Brook.
“It’s a big deal getting ahead early in the game,” Amaral said. “It kind of calms things down. We knew everybody was going to be rooting for these guys and being able to take the crowd out of it early is a pretty big deal.”
It’s true that many of the fans in the estimated 23,000 person-strong stands were sporting Seawolves red. The people from the surrounding Nebraska towns are happy to root for the underdog, whom many are calling a “Cinderella” team.
But the Seawolves may not have many more chances to do so. With the loss, SBU moves to the losers bracket. It must win the game on Sunday – played against the loser of the Arizona/Florida State game – in order to continue playing.
“We’re a very good ballclub and we’re here for a reason,” Johnson said. “It didn’t go our way today. That’s going to happen. It’s baseball. We’ll get back after it on Sunday.”
Sunday’s game will be aired on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. CT, 5 p.m. EST.