The Bruins were one game away from being swept for the first time in conference play this season.
Then the bats came alive.
After losing back-to-back games against Washington State (24-23, 10-14 Pac-12) on Friday and Saturday by scores of 7-1 and 7-3, UCLA baseball (25-23, 14-10) trounced the Cougars 12-2 on Sunday to avoid a four-game losing streak.
“We answered the call today and put a lot of things together,” said coach John Savage. “Was it a good weekend? No, not necessarily. But it could have been a catastrophe, and we salvaged it, so that’s how we’re looking at it.”
UCLA tallied more hits in Sunday’s matchup than the first two games of the series combined.
Redshirt sophomore catcher Daniel Rosica and freshman right fielder Jeremy Ydens each notched RBI singles in the top of the second inning to start the Bruins’ hit parade.
After Washington State scored in the bottom of the third, UCLA notched eight unanswered runs over the next three innings. Junior first baseman Sean Bouchard and sophomore designated hitter Jake Pries each blasted home runs during the stretch.
“The biggest thing was just our aggressiveness and just being confident,” Bouchard said. “That was one thing coach preached after yesterday’s game and before the game today. … And I think that’s something I definitely noticed out of everyone.”
On the bump, sophomore Jon Olsen recorded the team’s strongest outing of the series Sunday.
The starter tossed seven innings and allowed just two runs while recording nine strikeouts, tying a career best. He hasn’t surrendered more than three runs in any of his last five outings.
While Olsen stymied Washington State’s offense, UCLA’s pitching staff as a whole struggled throughout the series’ first two games.
Junior ace Griffin Canning yielded 10 hits and four runs Friday, earning his third loss of the season. Junior Jake Bird, in his first start since Feb. 25, coughed up three runs – two were earned – in 4 1/3 innings Saturday.
The Bruins’ bullpen couldn’t reverse the trend, relinquishing seven runs in 4 2/3 innings combined during the first two games. Despite the troubling weekend on the bump, UCLA’s team ERA still ranks third in the conference – behind Oregon State and Stanford – at 3.48.
“(The Cougars) are a hot team and they had a good approach,” Savage said. “They did a good job and you got to give credit where credit is due.”
The Bruins finished their seven-game road stretch with a 4-3 record, but will likely drop in RPI after the series loss this weekend. They were ranked 53rd in RPI heading into Friday’s bout.
With seven games remaining in the season, the Bruins may need to cover some ground before the NCAA Tournament field is announced in June. But Savage said this isn’t the first time his team has been in this situation.
“It’s not about, ‘Hey we have to do this, we have to do that, we have to win this many games,’” Savage said. “That’s not what you do at this time. It’s like counting outs – that’s not what you do. We know that from experience. We’ve been down this path before. We’re flirting with it that’s for sure, but at the same time, it’s gonna help us remain sharp.”