Wednesday, July 17

Baseball’s winning streak ends


After 22 consecutive victories, UCLA falls to Stanford in the second game of weekend series

Junior shortstop Niko Gallego led the Bruins against Stanford with a career-high three runs for the Bruins' 7-5 win.

Junior shortstop Niko Gallego led the Bruins against Stanford with a career-high three runs for the Bruins' 7-5 win. Ryan Eshoff / Daily Bruin


The winning streak is officially at one.

One day after finally suffering its first loss of the season Friday night, the UCLA baseball team was suddenly faced with having to scratch and claw its way to a series victory in its first Pac-10 weekend.

Rob Rasmussen was no longer pitching to extend the season-opening winning streak, but the junior starting pitcher turned in a strong outing to help UCLA (23-1, 2-1 Pac-10) pull out a 7-5 win and take the rubber match of its conference-opening set with Stanford (13-9, 3-3) at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

“When you get to that many wins, it’s from taking it day by day,” Rasmussen said, looking back on the team’s 22-straight victories. “It’s our first Pac-10 series, so the pressure was back on for us to come back and win that. Even though the winning streak stopped, we can’t go and lose our first Pac-10 series.”

The left-hander gave up an RBI single in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth, but that was it. Rasmussen struck out eight and walked none in going six innings and improving his record to 4-0.

“I tried to keep the tempo up, make sure that the guys behind me were liking the tempo and whatnot,” he said. “When I’ve run into troubles this year, it’s been getting behind guys, so I just tried to stay ahead and let the defense work for me.”

Meanwhile, the Bruin bats took advantage of erratic Stanford pitching by jumping out to a four-run lead after three innings and holding on late.

Cardinal starter Brett Mooneyham threw 82 pitches in just three innings before he was chased by a UCLA offense that tagged him for four early runs.

“We wanted to kind of get back to our aggressive ways,” coach John Savage said. “This past week we haven’t been as aggressive as we wanted to be. We took some pitches when we needed to, but we let the barrel go. Our short game was very good again, we wanted to wear him down and we got to him rather early and took advantage of it.”

Junior shortstop Niko Gallego ““ hitting in the second spot in the order against the left-handed Mooneyham ““ helped jump-start the offense, getting on base four times, scoring three runs, driving in a run, and adding a stolen base.

Freshman outfielder Cody Keefer had a big day at the plate as well, contributing three RBI.

“The approach was the same for the whole team,” Gallego said. “We were trying to just really see the ball, and have a middle-up approach with his fastball.”

UCLA extended its lead to 5-1 after four innings, and the teams went back and forth from there. The home run from Stanford’s Kenny Diekroeger cut the deficit to 5-3, but the Bruins tacked on two more runs in the sixth.

Things got dicey against the UCLA bullpen after Rasmussen was removed. Tuesday starter Garett Claypool came on in relief but was pulled after giving up a pair of base-runners.

Junior left-hander Matt Grace induced an inning-ending double play in the seventh but was charged with a pair of runs in the eighth as the Cardinal trimmed the lead to 7-5. Redshirt sophomore closer Dan Klein ended up going two innings to record his sixth save and maintain his perfect ERA.

Less than 24 hours after suffering their first defeat in 23 games, it was back to the normal routine for the Bruins. Savage acknowledged that perhaps his team had been playing with too much urgency as they looked to avoid that initial loss.

“The last couple games have kind of seemed like just trying to win too much,” he said. “You can’t play this game like that, you’ve got to just play the game to play the game. You could tell the guys were trying to force the issue. I think we’ll be better for it, and it’s past us now.”

A record of 23-1 isn’t exactly something to scoff at, and after conference foe Arizona State also lost on Friday night, no undefeated teams remain in Division I. With the remainder of the conference schedule ahead of them, the Bruins’ continued success will hinge on the execution they showed during their first 22 games.

“We’re playing well, we got good hops,” Gallego said. “A couple balls bounced our way while we were on the streak and we got lucky, but we made our own luck. It’s good to get back on that streak.”

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