Bottom of the ninth inning, tie game, bases loaded, two outs and a 3-2 count.
And sophomore right fielder Garret Mitchell drew a walk.
No. 1 UCLA baseball (29-6, 10-3 Pac-12) defeated California (19-13, 7-6) 8-7 in the series opener Thursday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium in walk-off fashion. After trailing 7-3 in the fifth inning, the Bruins scored five unanswered runs, with the last one coming from a bases-loaded walk by Mitchell to bring home the winning run.
The Bruins put three men aboard in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at seven. With two outs, Mitchell worked a full count and said he felt he had the advantage because he didn’t expect right-hander Sean Sullivan to put it in the strike zone.
“I didn’t even think he was going to throw a strike,” Mitchell said. “He had to throw three strikes before four balls, so I let him take the time trying to throw the strikes. … I knew that he was more nervous than I was. He’s the one that has to throw it down the plate.”
Thursday marked the second walk-off win by the Bruins in less than a week after junior first baseman Michael Toglia hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday against East Carolina.
The Bruins put up two spots in both the fifth and eighth innings to tie the game at seven. Junior second baseman Chase Strumpf hit a two-RBI single to left to cut the deficit to 7-5 in the fifth, and sophomore shortstop Kevin Kendall slapped an RBI single to right before junior third baseman Ryan Kreidler was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to tie the game in the eighth.
The Golden Bears struck first in the game when catcher Korey Lee led off the second inning with a home run off sophomore right-hander Zach Pettway. California first baseman Andrew Vaughn – the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner – gave Cal a 2-1 lead in the top of the third with an RBI single to center field.
Cal did the majority of its damage, however, with a five-run fifth inning.
Third baseman Quentin Selma shot a three-run home-run over the batting cages in right field to give the Golden Bears a 5-3 advantage. After a double by Vaughn, Lee hit his second home run of the night to extend the lead to 7-3.
“We’re fortunate to win,” said coach John Savage. “Cal is clearly one of the better offensive teams out there, and they proved that tonight.”
Pettway lasted 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven earned runs on eight hits with three strikeouts. The sophomore holds a 7.94 ERA over his last four starts, with UCLA losing two of those four games.
Freshman right-fielder Jack Filby replaced Pettway and struck out both batters he faced to stop the damage in the fifth. The bullpen allowed zero runs and only one hit across 4 2/3 innings.
Senior designated hitter Jake Pries said the bullpen’s shutout performance was a significant help for the Bruins’ offense.
“That was everything,” Pries said. “They’re the ones that helped the offense out the most. … They were giving us a little mojo for the innings to come late in game.”
The Bruins first got on the board in the second with a sac-fly to left field by freshman center fielder Matt McLain. Pries roped a line drive over the left-field wall for a two-run home run to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
The Bruins will have the chance to clinch the series Friday at 7 p.m.