Breyden Eckhout’s solo homer not enough for Mavs in regional opener against top-seeded UCLA

LOS ANGELES — With senior Payton Kinney on the mound and Breyden Eckhout launching a home run to left in the fourth inning, fourth-seeded UNO (31-23-1) had reason to hope Friday night in the first Division I regional game in program history.

Then UCLA (48-8), the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and Pac-12 tournament champion, got its offense into high gear en route to a 5-2 victory in the Los Angeles Regional.

Bruin starter Ryan Garcia pitched 8⅓ innings to outduel Kinney. Garcia improved to 10-0 on the year and Kinney fell to 11-2.

In the first four innings, Kinney limited UCLA to an infield single and struck out five.

“Payton did a great job for us,” UNO coach Evan Porter said. “We knew were facing a tough guy on the mound. We knew (Garcia) would be around the zone.”

The Bruins finally broke through with three runs in the fifth. They had four hits during the inning, two of which didn’t leave the infield.

UNO center fielder Thomas DeBonville raced in to make a diving catch and rob designated hitter Jake Pries of a hit. Jack Stronach followed with a single to center, and Jeremy Ydens and Noah Cardenas followed with infield singles to load the bases.

Stronach scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt McLain, and leadoff hitter Garrett Mitchell broke the tie with a two-run single to right. The Bruins added two runs when Pries and Stronach each had RBI doubles.

“We ran into some tough luck,” Porter said. “What usually ends up as zeros was a three-run inning.”

UNO tried to rally in the top of the seventh.

Ben Palensky doubled to left, and catcher Brett Bonar hit a bloop single to left. Palensky was unable to advance because he was uncertain if the ball would be caught.

But Garcia was up to the challenge. DeBonville flied out to left, and Jack Lombardi struck out to end the inning.

The Mavs will play Baylor in a losers bracket game at 4 p.m. Saturday. The winner will advance to play Sunday against the loser of the UCLA-Loyola Marymount game while the loser’s season will end.