Tuesday’s extra-inning walk-off win started with a reliever on the mound.
No. 1 UCLA baseball (38-8, 16-5 Pac-12) edged out Long Beach State (11-35, 5-10 Big West) 2-1 in a 12-inning walk-off win to take the season sweep over the Dirtbags. With the bases loaded, a passed ball allowed junior first baseman Michael Toglia to score from third, maintaining the Bruins’ unblemished midweek record.
“Coming off of a big weekend with Arizona State, it was good to get the win,” said coach John Savage. “It wasn’t pretty but it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.”
Freshman right-hander Sean Mullen was slated to make the start for the Bruins Tuesday, but was scratched because of his appendicitis. In his place was junior right-hander Felix Rubi,who made his first career start going five innings, allowing one run and striking out four. In his previous appearances combined, Rubi had only pitched 5 1/3 innings across six games.
“The fact that he went five innings with 63 pitches was pretty impressive,” Savage said. “At the end of the day he gave us exactly what we wanted.”
The Bruins gave Rubi immediate run support as sophomore outfielder Garrett Mitchell doubled to right-center in the first and would advance to third on a wild pitch. This would set up an RBI fielder’s choice by junior second baseman Chase Strumpf, putting UCLA up by one.
The very next inning, the Dirtbags responded with a double of their own and advanced their runner on a wild pitch. A groundout to second would score the tying run for Long Beach State and the game would remain tied for the next 10 innings.
“I struggled in the beginning but I felt better as the game went on,” Rubi said. “I had to take a few breaths and really settle down and get used to the environment and to the feelings that I haven’t felt in a while.”
After allowing the one run, Rubi would retire the final 12 batters he faced. Dating back to his time at Glendale Community College, this was the first time the junior transfer had started a game since his freshman year of junior college.
“We were down to just a few guys,” Savage said. “We wanted to keep (sophomore right-hander) Mike (Townsend), (redshirt senior right-hander) Nate (Hadley), (junior right-hander) Kyle (Mora) and everybody in their roles. So we had (Rubi) and he stepped up and it was really a strong effort by him.”
Rubi would exit the game in the fifth, handing the ball over to the bullpen, which pitched seven shutout innings. After failing to record an out in his nine-pitch appearance against Arizona State on Sunday, Mora went a season-high three innings on Tuesday.
“There’s going to be blips along the way,” Savage said. “You play too many games for it to go right all the time. So I knew he’d bounce back, and that’s exactly what he did.”
The Bruins’ offense did not score a run for 10 consecutive innings and came up short in the 11th after Mitchell led off with a triple and was left stranded. However, in the 12th, Toglia reached base on an error and senior designated hitter Jake Pries’ double down the left field line put runners in scoring positions once again for UCLA. After an intentional walk to load the bases, catcher Antonio Torres let a 1-0 pitch slip past him, scoring Toglia to win the game.
“It wasn’t the best of our games this year, but at the end of the day all that matters is that we got the win,” said Mitchell. “But we do have a lot to learn from this game.”
UCLA will go on the road to play Washington State in a three-game series starting Friday at 5:05 p.m.