Baylor had an entire stadium full of fans; UCLA just had a dugout full.
On a road series all the way in Waco, Texas this weekend, Bruin baseball faced powerful crowds that were all cheering for the Bears, but that did not deter them – all they needed was the intensity that came from their teammates.
“When things go wrong, the whole crowd is against you and you have to create your own energy, and the biggest energy we need is for our team to be with us. You have those 35 guys in the dugout cheering for us,” said sophomore reliever David Berg. “That’s the most important thing.”
This weekend was the Bruins’ first road trip of the season, and they managed to take two out of three, losing 5-0 on Saturday but squeaking by with 4-3 and 5-4 wins on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The two close wins came down not only to scoring late but also to relievers holding down the game in the final innings.
On Saturday, starting pitcher Nick Vander Tuig allowed only two runs, but the Bruins allowed three more after he left the game and a stalled defense left UCLA with a loss.
However, the team went into Sunday’s game determined to win the series.
“It’s so difficult to win a road series. … Whenever you get the opportunity to win the series, you take advantage,” said coach John Savage.
UCLA has a rotation of three experienced pitchers – juniors Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig and sophomore Grant Watson – that managed to start the games out strong this weekend.
The younger part of the team is the offense, which is still coming together, as evidenced by the close games and the manner in which its one loss came.
“Well, I think we need to execute better offensively. We grinded it out (on Sunday). … When you pitch and play defense you’ll be in a lot of series; (the offense) will prove they’re capable of good things,” Savage said. “It’s early and there’s a lot of work to do.”
The final game and the series win came down to the wire on Sunday, with the score locked at 4-4 going into the ninth inning. However, a passed ball allowed junior center fielder Brian Carroll to score, and freshman closer James Kaprielian made sure the bottom of the inning stayed calm, allowing UCLA to leave Waco with a 5-4 win.
“It’s huge any time you can go to a big-time place and take two out of three – it’s important for momentum. It means a lot,” Carroll said.
While each game varied, there was one steady factor throughout the weekend: the raucous Baylor crowd.
With a crowd that got as big as 3,000, the Bruins had many cheering against them from the start. As the games got closer the cheering got louder, but that was not a deterrent for the team.
“I always think it’s a little more fun and worthwhile to win on the road, it feels like you against the world,” Berg said.