Michael Toglia’s five-RBI night sunk the Pirates’ chances of stealing a Friday night win.
No. 1 UCLA (25-6, 9-3 Pac-12) baseball defeated No. 8 East Carolina (25-8, 8-1 AAC) 7-5 in a comeback effort that marked its fifth consecutive game against a ranked opponent.
Coming into Friday’s game, Toglia was batting .500 with a home run and six RBIs over his past three games. He continued his success at the plate by going 3-for-4 and hitting a home run and batting in five Bruins, a single-game season high.
“His confidence has been getting better,” said coach John Savage. “He’s always been a good player here, it’s just a matter of getting going”.
The Bruins traded runs with the Pirates for the first three innings, leaving UCLA with a 2-1 lead heading into the fourth. A four-run outburst by East Carolina gave the team a 5-2 advantage as sophomore right hander Zach Pettway exited the game pitching a season-low 3 2/3 innings.
“We dug ourselves a hole tonight,” Savage said. “That was probably one of (Pettway’s) toughest outings since he’s been at UCLA and you’ve got to give (East Carolina) a lot of credit.”
In the sixth inning, UCLA had two men on with no outs and were looking to put a dent in the East Carolina’s lead. Consecutive strikeouts by senior designated hitter Jake Pries and junior outfielder Jack Stronach left Toglia at the plate with a chance to bring the runners home. East Carolina reliever Sam Lanier hung a 3-1 curveball that Toglia crushed into right field, tying the game at five runs apiece.
“I saw the first couple curveballs really well and kind of put that in the back of my mind,” said Toglia. “So if he hung another one, I figured I’d just react to it.”
Toglia’s next at-bat came in the eighth inning, when he stepped up to the plate with two outs and two men on and a chance to pull the Bruins ahead. He proceeded to drive a double into left-center that was just shy of clearing the fence, knocking in the two go-ahead runs that secured a UCLA comeback win.
“The hits were to the opposite field on (reliever Evan Voliva) because he was staying away from all the hitters,” Toglia said. “And I put my sights on the left-center gap, and if he left anything on that side of the plate I was going to try and put a good swing on it.”
While Toglia was leading the Bruin comeback, the bullpen kept the game close as freshman right hander Jack Filby, redshirt senior right hander Nathan Hadley and junior closer Holden Powell combined to give up one earned run over 5 1/3 innings. At one point, the bullpen had retired 14 straight batters, stretching from the fourth to ninth inning.
“Coach preaches you’ve got to be ready to pitch as soon as you come out of the pen,” said Hadley. “If you go out there and get the early outs, it’s a lot easier to pitch.”
The bullpen performance was highlighted by Hadley, who pitched two innings in a single appearance for the first time this season. Over his two innings of work, he did not allow a baserunner and struck out four Pirates.
“I don’t know where we’d be without (Hadley) this year,” Savage said. “He’s been very consistent and I think he’s one of the best setup guys in the country. I don’t think anybody can argue with that.”
UCLA will finish its series against the Pirates on Saturday with a double-header, with game one starting at 2 p.m. and game two scheduled to start at 6 p.m.