Thursday, January 23

UCLA baseball beats USC at Dodger Stadium

Junior shortstop Niko Gallego celebrates with teammates in the dugout after leading off the eighth inning with a home run in UCLA's win at Dodger Stadium. Maya Sugarman

DODGER STADIUM “”mdash; There was baseball played at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, and the blue-clad faithful went home victorious.

This time, however, it was UCLA powder blue rather than Dodger blue that filled the stands at Chavez Ravine, as the Bruins defeated crosstown rival USC 6-1 in the inaugural Dodgertown Classic.

In front of a crowd that totaled nearly 15,000, UCLA got a two-run single from Justin Uribe in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie. The Bruins pulled away from the Trojans to win their sixth consecutive game to start the season.

“He threw me a split and left it up, and it made it through the infield,” Uribe said of his at-bat, which occurred with the USC infield drawn in and Bruin runners on second and third. “It’s a lot easier when those guys are 70 feet instead of 80 feet or 90 feet. It kind of poked through there, but I’ll take it.”

The Bruin offense, which had yet to score less than nine runs in a game this season, pushed across three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend their lead and send many of the crimson-and-gold-clad USC faithful heading for the exits. Junior shortstop Niko Gallego homered to lead off the UCLA half of the eighth, his second hit of the game and second long ball of the year.

“I just spun it, it was a little in, a little up,” Gallego said of the pitch he launched into the left-field pavilion. “It was good, but our team just wore them down. It was great to be in that game.”

UCLA junior starting pitcher Rob Rasmussen, looking to bounce back from a shaky start in his debut on Feb. 21, struck out six and gave up just one run, but did give up five hits and four walks and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning.

Because UCLA’s scheduled Saturday tilt with Oklahoma State was rained out, there was some pregame banter among fans that sophomore Trevor Bauer would get the starting nod against USC. But coach John Savage stuck with Rasmussen and praised the effort of his Sunday starter.

“We need Rasmussen as much as anybody,” Savage said. “We have faith in all our players and trust in all our players, and I think it proved out to be the right call.”

Savage employed a new-look lineup against the Trojans, batting freshman Cody Keefer in the leadoff spot and giving sophomore Dean Espy the start at first base over Uribe, who took over in the fifth.

“We just kind of liked the matchup on the mound,” Savage said of his lineup decisions. “We were a little antsy early on, and we squandered some opportunities, but at the end of the day we chipped away and scored enough.”

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