Donning the No. 42 on their caps for Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday, the Bruins honored the UCLA legend with a third consecutive victory.
No. 17 UCLA baseball (22-9, 11-4 Pac-12) swept Utah (9-25, 4-8) in Salt Lake City over the weekend after outscoring the Utes by 24 total runs in three games. It was the Bruins’ second-highest run total in a conference series in more than a decade.
With the exception of a 38-run series against California last season, UCLA had not scored more than 34 runs in a Pac-12 series since 2007 – before Utah had been added to the conference.
The Bruin bats have averaged over 9 runs per game in the month of April, compared to an average of 6 in the months prior.
“It looks like a different team. Guys are using the whole field (and) playing offense as a team,” coach John Savage said. “When you do things as a team, good things happen. They did a really good job of putting a lot of at-bats together and therefore scored some runs.”
Junior right-hander Jon Olsen threw 68 pitches in four innings in his second start since returning from a facial injury, allowing 2 runs on four hits in a 12-4 win Sunday.
“I think (Utah is) better than their record says. They’re a very competitive team and they have some good pieces,” Olsen said. “This was a good weekend for us to establish (momentum) down the road.”
Sophomore Kyle Mora earned the win to bring his record to 3-1. The right-hander threw 1 1/3 shutout frames, allowing no hits. Sophomore Ryan Garcia pitchedfor the second time this weekend, giving up a run in an inning of work. Freshman closer Holden Powell held the Utes scoreless in the final two innings to secure the win.
The Bruins started Sunday’s game with 5 runs in the first frame. Freshman right fielder Garrett Mitchell and sophomore designated hitter Jack Stronach each recorded three RBIs in the series finale.
“I think that our approach has gotten a little better. We’re just sticking to the plan regardless of the outcome,” Mitchell said. “I think with that approach and the mindset that we’re going up there knowing what pitches we’re looking for, it’s helped us out in the last couple weeks.”
UCLA clinched its sixth series win in seven years over Utah on Saturday, posting a 3-run ninth inning to win 6-3.
Kyle Molnar made his first appearance for UCLA since undergoing Tommy John surgery toward the end of the 2016 season. The redshirt sophomore came in for relief during the eighth inning, retiring the side cleanly and earning the win.
The Bruins still hold the fifth-best ERA in the nation despite three different starters sitting out ample time due to injuries this season.
“We’re still grinding. Molnar only threw one inning and Olsen threw four innings, so that’s a lot of different innings for a lot of different guys,” Savage said. “We need everyone on board right now and that’s what we’ve been following all season.”
UCLA trailed most of the game after Utah took a 3-2 lead in the third frame, but scored in the eighth to break even. The Bruins then took the lead in the ninth after a two-RBI double from sophomore outfielder Jarron Silva.
Freshman Zach Pettway rebounded from giving up 8 runs in 2 1/3 innings April 7 against No. 2 Stanford. The right-hander tossed seven innings, allowing 3 runs on five hits before Powell came in to record the save in the ninth.
“There’s no layover with (Pettway and Powell),” Olsen said. “We look at them as some of the older guys that are competitive and that will go out and (consistently) make pitches for us.”
UCLA tallied its highest run total of the season Friday, defeating Utah 16-3 with four Bruins recording multiple hits.
Jake Bird started for the ninth time, tying career-highs with seven strikeouts and 7 1/3 innings pitched. The senior has thrown at least six innings in five of his last six games and averages over 6 2/3 innings pitched per game this season.
Bird improved his record to 4-2 after allowing just 2 runs on five hits. He holds the third-lowest ERA in the Pac-12 at 1.65.
UCLA will face UC Irvine starting 6 p.m. Tuesday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.