After suffering their biggest loss of the year, the Bruins responded with two of their largest wins.
No. 1 UCLA baseball (20-5, 7-2 Pac-12) lost to crosstown rival USC (10-16, 3-6) 7-2 Friday night – its largest margin of defeat this season. The Bruins bounced back with 7-1 and 9-2 wins Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to clinch the series.
“Losing the first game of the series, we had to come back with a little edge,” said redshirt sophomore designated hitter Jarron Silva. “We felt like we didn’t play our game Friday night.”
The Bruins never held a lead in game one, with the Trojans tacking on runs in every odd inning. Sophomore right-hander Zach Pettway lasted seven innings but allowed seven runs on 10 hits and three walks.
UCLA trailed 5-0 when they scored their first run off a sixth-inning RBI single to the right side by junior first baseman Michael Toglia. The Bruins’ second and final run came in the ninth when freshman infielder Jack Filby hit an RBI single up the middle.
“We got handled on Friday,” said coach John Savage. “They were very aggressive against (Pettway) and we just couldn’t get anything going against (Connor) Lunn.”
Lunn allowed two runs and seven hits over 8 2/3 innings of work while punching out eight Bruins.
UCLA evened the series on Saturday with a 7-1 victory off the back of redshirt junior right-hander Jack Ralston.
Ralston was pitching a shutout until designated hitter Jamal O’Guinn hit a two-out, solo home run in the bottom of the ninth. The homer prompted Savage to pull Ralston, who improved his record to 4-0 and ended his day with one earned run, six hits allowed and four strikeouts in a career-high 8 2/3 innings.
The redshirt junior said Saturday’s pitching performance was among his all-time best.
“It’s probably top three, for sure,” Ralston said. “Being able to execute pitches, throwing up fastballs, good locations, down angles and mixing in my off-speeds (was working well for me).”
The Bruins struck early in game two, as they scored all seven of their runs by the fourth inning. Senior designated hitter Jake Pries ignited the offense with a three-run home run in the first inning that plated juniors second baseman Chase Strumpf and shortstop Ryan Kreidler.
Another three runs came across in the third, starting with an RBI single by junior left fielder Jack Stronach and followed by a two-RBI double by Toglia. Strumpf hit a sac fly to center in the fourth to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead.
The Trojans were the first to get on the board in the rubber match Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead in the first off junior right-hander Ryan Garcia. The Bruins, however, responded in the next frame.
Silva – making his fourth start of the year – belted a two-run home run to right field to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Silva said he was lucky to get one of the two pitches he was looking for during his at-bat.
“My approach with a runner on third was to hit the fastball away (and) react to any off-speed up,” Silva said. “Luckily that put me on the change-up up.”
Silva finished the afternoon with a team-high four RBIs to go along with two hits and one run.
USC tied the game at two apiece in the second when designated hitter Brady Shockey scored off a throwing error by Toglia. The game included a total of 14 walks and seven errors.
“I thought the game was sloppy on both sides,” Savage said. “First three innings we walked five guys and made a couple errors. The good thing is they only got two runs.”
A sac fly to center by Kreidler brought home junior catcher Will McInerny in the third to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead. Sophomore right fielder Garrett Mitchell scored later in the inning on a wild pitch, and sophomore shortstop Kevin Kendall crossed home in the following inning on a passed ball.
Toglia extended the UCLA lead to 6-2 in the fifth with a solo home run that sailed over the scoreboard in right field at Dedeaux Field. The Bruins added three insurance runs in the ninth off Silva’s two-RBI double down the right field line and a wild pitch that plated Toglia.
“We have a lot of guys that can swing the bat (and) a lot of those guys haven’t played,” Savage said. “It’s good to see (Silva) have a big day for us.”
Garcia earned his second win of year as he lasted five innings with three strikeouts and allowed two runs, three hits and five walks.
The Bruins will play CSUN for the second time this year in a Tuesday home game at 6 p.m.