UCLA baseball fans can breathe a sigh of relief and wipe the sweat off their foreheads ““ the team handled its new top-billing just fine on Tuesday night.
A day after ascending to the pinnacle of the collegiate baseball rankings ““ a spot that has been less than friendly to teams this spring ““ the No. 1 Bruins backed up all the hoopla on their way to a dominant 10-0 victory over UC Riverside at the Riverside Sports Complex. It was UCLA’s first shutout of the season.
“It was a good team effort,” said freshman Jeff Gelalich, who was 2 for 4 with three runs batted in. “We played a good opponent, but we just came out and we were ready to play.”
Gelalich was one of the handful of reserves who saw considerable time Tuesday. Sophomore shortstop Adrian Williams had two hits, scored twice and knocked in his first career run in place of junior Niko Gallego. Freshman catcher Trevor Brown also had two hits and scored twice in place of sophomore Steve Rodriguez.
“Baseball is not an easy game,” coach John Savage said. “When you don’t play it very much, you can get out of sorts.”
Even without its usual lineup, UCLA (26-3) didn’t skip a beat against the Highlanders (15-12).
“We have a lot of guys that haven’t played in a while,” Savage said. “It was good to see. It was an entire team effort from some guys that haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities. That’s always a good sign for your team.”
There were good signs on the mound as well.
In an effort to keep his pitching staff sharp, Savage used six different pitchers ““ ranging from midweek starter Garett Claypool and closer Dan Klein to little-used relievers Matt Drummond and Scott Griggs. The six-man crew did more than just put in work ““ they combined to allow a mere two hits and strike out 11.
Claypool got the starting nod and answered with three innings of hitless ball. He struck out five of the 10 batters he faced ““ this coming three nights after tossing four and two-thirds innings of one-hit ball in the Bruins’ 16-inning marathon win at Oregon State.
Because Claypool (5-1) was predetermined to pitch just three innings, he earned the win. Usually, a pitcher needs to throw at least five frames to get the official win.
Klein ““ representing the back end of the six-man staff ““ was just as dominant in a non-save situation, sealing the win by striking out two of three in the ninth.
Gelalich cranked two hits, one being a triple that scored three runners and gave UCLA a comfortable 5-0 edge in the fourth. The Bruins added two in the sixth and three in the eighth for the 10-0 lead.
“From day one we’ve talked about our depth,” Savage said. “We have a lot of guys that are on board with the team and their approach is pretty impressive.”