After falling just short Friday night, the Bruins were able to dig themselves out of an early hole Saturday.
No. 2 UCLA baseball (10-3) came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Oklahoma State (8-5) 6-3 in game two of the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic. Redshirt junior Jack Ralston – who was making his fourth consecutive Saturday start – went five innings deep and kept his ERA below 2.00, but he was pitching from behind for a big chunk of the afternoon.
Oklahoma State got on the board first, picking up an RBI single with two outs in the top of the opening frame. UCLA answered after senior outfielder Jake Pries drove in junior second baseman Chase Strumpf – who launched a triple to deep center the previous at-bat – to tie the game at one.
Outfielder Trevor Boone took Ralston deep in the second to give Oklahoma State a 2-1 lead, and as he was on his way back into the visiting dugout, his teammates stole his helmet and crowned him with a big, tan cowboy hat.
“They’re a physical Big 12 team,” said coach John Savage. “It’s just like the Pac-12 or any major Power Five school, that’s a legitimate offensive lineup.”
In the bottom of the inning, Pries stepped up with the bases loaded and one down, but he chopped it back to right-hander Jensen Eillot, who turned two to end the inning.
“We know we’re very capable (at the plate),” Savage said. “We’re pitching and playing good defense, and that helps things. If we weren’t doing that, it’d be pretty frustrating, but we’re gonna get hot.”
Junior first baseman Michael Toglia flashed some leather on a grounder by right fielder Cade Cabbinessin the top of the fourth, but he didn’t have time to make a play at the plate and Oklahoma State extended its lead to two.
That would be the last run the Cowboys would score, and they were never able to post a multirun inning, something Ralstron and Savage both said was major part of the team’s philosophy.
“Competing on every pitch (is important),” Ralston said. “Just getting my breath was honestly a big thing.”
For the second straight inning, the Bruins had the bases loaded with only one out . Freshman catcher Noah Cardenas popped out to right, and when Toglia tried tagging from third, he was gunned down at the plate by Cabbiness.
Ralston sat the Cowboys down in order to start the fifth for his first 1-2-3 inning of the day, picking up his sixth and final strikeout in the process.
At the bottom of the fifth, Toglia came to the dish with two outs and men on second and third. He watched the first pitch go by for a ball, then yanked the next one to left for a single that scored both runners and tied the game at three.
“It felt great,” Toglia said. “It’s always good to help your team any way you can, and that one felt good, but I’m glad that we kept pouring it on afterwards and we were able to bury them a little bit.”
Ralston walked the first batter he saw in the sixth, and Savage handed the ball to freshman right-hander Jack Filby to end Ralston’s day after three earned runs and 96 pitches.
“When he took me out, obviously, I didn’t want to go out of the game,” Ralston said. “But I just trust whatever (Savage) does and that the guy after me is gonna pick me up.”
Junior designated hitter Jack Stronach had a leadoff infield single to start the bottom of the sixth, and after sophomore shortstop Kevin Kendall advanced him to second on a suicide squeeze, pinch hitter redshirt sophomore Jarron Silva drove Stronach home on a double to give the Bruins their first lead of the day.
Two batters later, sophomore right fielder Garrett Mitchell sliced a double of his own to left to plate Silva and put UCLA up 5-3.
The next inning, junior right-hander Ryan Garcia entered the game to make his season debut after missing the first 12 games with flexor inflammation. Garcia walked the first batter he saw, then allowed a single.
Oklahoma State tried to lay down a bunt to advance both runners, but Garcia fielded it and threw out the lead runner at third before striking out first baseman Christian Funk and catcher Colin Simpson to end the inning.
“We’re still looking into (Garcia’s injury),” Savage said. “But it’s good to see that he’s healthy, and he pitched out of problems … that was impressive, showed his competitiveness.”
The Bruins tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when junior third baseman Ryan Kreidler lined his third home run of the season deep over the left field wall, extending the lead to three.
The final game of the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic will start at 3 p.m. Sunday when UCLA takes on crosstown rival USC in the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, an opportunity Toglia said can’t be taken for granted.
“You never know if that’s your only chance to ever play in a stadium like that,” Toglia said. “You show up and you get to see the Hall of Fame and you get to sit where big leaguers have sat and it’s a really cool experience.”