For the first time in three years, the Bruins took home the final game of the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic.
No. 2 UCLA baseball (11-3) battled back from an early 4-0 deficit Sunday afternoon to defeat crosstown rival USC (5-9) 7-5 at Dodger Stadium. The Trojans committed four errors, which led to four Bruin runs that turned out to be the difference in the game.
“The way we came out on top this year shows a different identity that the team has,” said junior third baseman Chase Strumpf. “I think we’re a little tougher this year.”
Down by four runs in the bottom of the third, the Bruins produced their first run with an RBI single to right by Strumpf.
Later in the inning, junior third baseman Ryan Kreidler lined a single to right field and right fielder Preston Hartsell slipped and fell trying to come up with the ball. Strumpf and junior first baseman Michael Toglia scored as the ball rolled toward the outfield wall, cutting the USC lead to 4-3.
“(The third) inning alone brought a lot of confidence, especially with the top of our lineup scuffling here and there,” said sophomore right fielder Garrett Mitchell, who was the leadoff hitter for the Bruins. “It’s just the identity of our team, being able to fight back no matter where we are in the lineup.”
Mitchell led the Bruins in hits, going 2-for-3 with two runs and two walks.
UCLA still trailed by a run in the bottom of seventh when redshirt sophomore outfielder Jarron Silva led off with a pinch-hit walk. Mitchell followed with a single and they both advanced into scoring position by a wild pitch. Strumpf walked to load the bases, but ball four got past the catcher and allowed Silva to come in from third to tie up the game at four apiece.
With two outs and Mitchell and Strumpf still on base, Toglia dribbled a ground ball to right-hander Chris Clarke. Clarke threw wide to first, allowing Toglia to reach safely and Mitchell to score the go-ahead run.
“(USC) made some mistakes,” said coach John Savage. “They walked some people, they made some errors, they helped us out.”
The Bruins added two insurance runs in the eighth inning to extend their lead to 7-4 when freshman center fielder Matt McLain launched a deep fly ball down the right-field line that fell for a two RBI double.
On the mound, freshman right-hander Jesse Bergin got the nod for his fourth consecutive Sunday start. The first pitch of the game from Bergin was sent into the outfield bleachers when left fielder Blake Sabol shot the ball over the wall in right-center to give USC a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans added two runs in the second on a two RBI single by third baseman Ben Ramirez that just got by Bergin’s glove and rolled into center field. USC again extended its lead to 4-0 in the top of the third with an RBI single up the middle by center fielder Matthew Acosta, prompting Savage to pull Bergin.
“It was time for a new look,” Savage said. “We wanted to stay in the game, that game was getting away from us.”
Bergin ended his afternoon with four earned runs, six hits allowed and one strikeout in 2 1/3 innings. The freshman had allowed just one run across his three starts, but raised his ERA from 0.51 to 2.25 after Sunday’s contest.
Sophomore right-hander Michael Townsend came in to replace Bergin and lasted 2 2/3 scoreless innings with one hit allowed and four strikeouts. Savage said the fact that Townsend’s mother recently died has shown the righty’s ability to persevere through tough times.
“It’s fun to see a guy that had some very difficult times in his young life be able to rebound,” Savage said. “He has pitched the best baseball he’s pitched since he has been at UCLA in the last couple weeks.”
Right-handers freshman Jack Filby, redshirt sophomore Nathan Hadley, junior Kyle Mora and sophomore Holden Powell each pitched one inning in relief to preserve the UCLA lead. Despite Powell giving up one run in the top of the ninth inning, the bullpen lowered its ERA to 1.29 on the year and had eight punchouts on the afternoon.
“I have to give the bullpen a lot of credit,” Savage said. “The bullpen has been good for us all season, and that was a big deal today picking up the starter.”
The Bruins will play at Long Beach State (2-12) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.