After a recent flood of disappointing offensive performances, UCLA baseball looked to be headed in the same direction – they were down 4-2 in the ninth, with two outs left to make anything happen.
But with one crack of the bat, it all turned around as junior outfielder Brenton Allen sent a two-run homer soaring over the wall, tying the game up against UC Irvine and sending it into extras.
“That was probably one of the biggest hits of his career, it was awesome and it got us even, gave us a chance to get back out there,” said coach John Savage.
The Bruins won the extra inning affair, scoring in the 12th off a bunt from junior Justin Hazard, and then driving in one more for good measure for a 6-4 victory.
UCLA has struggled recently but has been on its game when matchups go into extras, now holding onto a 4-1 record in those games this year.
“Winning an extra inning game on the road, well, that’s even tougher than doing it at home,” Savage said. “Those guys hung in there and they battled.”
Freshman starter Cody Poteet stuck out six innings, and while he got roughed up in a three-run first inning he came back and held on for the rest of his outing.
Sophomore reliever David Berg often plays an important role in late innings, and when games go beyond nine he has often had to stay in longer than would normally be comfortable for a reliever.
While he pitched three innings on Tuesday night, picking up the win, Berg was unphased and said that it’s his approach that helps him get through long outings.
“I just don’t really think about it, if I do I’ll get caught up,” Berg said. “I just go into every inning like it’s a brand new outing.”
While it was a big away win for the Bruins, it was also a return home for one – Savage coached at UCI for several seasons before he was hired by UCLA.
“I love being there, it was my first head coaching job and it’s a great place with great people,” Savage said.
The away win marked the first of a week that UCLA will spend playing away from Jackie Robinson, as it heads north to play at Oregon this weekend.
While it was the extra innings that got the Bruins the win, the Allen homer is what kept them in the game – not that junior shortstop Pat Valaika ever doubted his team’s ability to come back.
“Brenton came up clutch and it was a great feeling, hearing everybody scream,” Valaika said. “But I never really thought we were out of the game.”