With the playoffs out of reach, UCLA baseball had nothing but pride to play for. Instead of mailing in the last three games, the team had a message to send: The Bruins don’t give up and they fight until the very end.
For No. 8 Washington (39-15-1, 21-9 Pac-12), the message was received loud and clear, as UCLA (25-30-1, 12-18) took two of three games at Husky Ballpark to end the regular season. It was the Huskies’ lone home series loss of the year and only their second series loss overall.
“We really wanted to go up there and make a statement and end the season on a good note,” said junior catcher Shane Zeile.
“It’s just a good message that we don’t give up,” sophomore outfielder Ty Moore added. “We still have something to play for even if we’re not in the playoffs. Every game means something.”
The Bruins showed that they had something to prove on Friday night, as they got on the board right away when sophomore designated hitter Justin Hazard tripled in two runs in the top of the first.
Although they would add a run later in the game, it wouldn’t be needed as sophomore pitcher James Kaprielian threw eight innings of shutout ball and struckout 11 Huskies.
“I’m not really flattered about ending the season right now but the fact that it’s ending on a good note for me … and being able to learn really a new approach to the game, it’s gonna be good to take with me this summer,” Kaprielian said.
Down 3-1 in the ninth on Saturday, UCLA showed that it still had some fight left in it. The Bruins mustered five hits in the inning to drive in five runs to win their 19th consecutive game against the Huskies.
“We worked on getting the next guy to the plate and we strung together a bunch of quality at-bats and I think that’s what really helped us get to the win,” said freshman second baseman Luke Persico, who doubled in the go-ahead run.
Though the Bruins would have their winning streak snapped in the series finale with a 6-1 loss on Sunday, the team battled until the final out of its season was recorded.
“To win the way we did on Friday, which was pretty dominating, and then to come back the way we did last night … our guys clearly didn’t give up and they competed,” said coach John Savage. “It could have been a great weekend if we would have got (Sunday) done, but overall I think we have to be pleased with it.”
Despite having the third-worst record in the conference, the Bruins gave the second-best team in the Pac-12 a run for its money and ended the 2014 season on high note.
“It shows resilience in that we keep competing no matter what,” Persico said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re here on a mission; we’re here to win games.”
For this last weekend of the season at least, mission complete.