The Bruins’ last walk-off win sparked a season turnaround.
Sunday’s 6-5 walk-off victory against Washington may not generate a similar trend for UCLA baseball. But with the lone win from the weekend series, the Bruins avoided a four-game losing stretch and a possible stint of low morale.
“The mood is good right now,” said redshirt sophomore infielder Zander Clarke following Sunday’s game. “Although you never like losing a weekend, when you have to salvage a weekend you feel good about it.”
UCLA (14-15, 7-5 Pac-12) has been relatively streaky so far this season, as the team lost six straight games last month, but rebounded with six consecutive wins. The winning streak was the team’s longest since 2015.
The Bruins’ inconsistency has been noticeable during games as well, specifically on offense.
In a 12-inning affair against San Diego last month, UCLA went hitless for the final six frames. A similar trend occurred Friday against Washington when the Bruins had 15 straight at-bats without a base runner following a home run by senior outfielder Brett Stephens.
“I think we were a little slow out of the gate (against Washington), maybe on a high after the series win against (Arizona State), a little slump back,” said junior pitcher Jake Bird. “I think this will be good for us and keep us aware and awake.”
UCLA has also seen strides at the dish, especially since the walk-off win against Arizona last month, when it came back to claim a 8-7 victory in extra innings. In 11 games since that bout, the Bruins have notched 20 multirun innings. Before the victory, they accrued just 15 multirun innings in 17 games.
Coach John Savage attributed some aspects of the up-and-down season to the team’s youth. At least two freshmen have started in each of the team’s 29 games, and 23 of 37 players listed on the team’s roster are underclassmen.
Since conference play began, freshmen and sophomores have contributed to much of the team’s offensive success. Four players – Kyle Cuellar, Daniel Amaral, Michael Toglia and Chase Strumpf – have collected at least eight RBIs in Pac-12 play.
“It seems right now we’re a little bit on a roller coaster. … We’re still very young. And that’s kind of the deal – it’s that youth (that) shows up at times, in a negative way,” Savage said. “And sometimes it’s a positive way and today (Sunday) as you saw, it was pretty positive. A lot of freshmen contributed.”
Savage said the Washington series was a struggle, following a poor performance Friday and an average final three innings Saturday. But for the second time this season, the Bruins avoided a sweep despite entering the final inning of the series in a deficit.
UCLA has been swept just once this year, against Texas on the road.
“We’ve shown that we can fight a lot of games. Especially this weekend, if we got swept I think it would have had everybody down a little bit,” Bird said. “It was good to obviously save it, get a win and show that we can fight.”