The Bruin bats got hot late in a win over the Titans.
No. 11 UCLA baseball (7-1) traveled to Cal State Fullerton (1-7) for a midweek contest Tuesday night, where the Bruins scored nine runs in the final two innings to secure a 12-2 victory.
Sophomore Ryan Garcia took the hill for UCLA in his second start of the season and pitched five innings of one-run ball. He struck out five, but also walked three on 93 pitches.
Coach John Savage has now been able to see the top-four guys in his rotation twice each, and said he is satisfied with where they stand.
“We think our starting pitching is solid,” Savage said. “(Senior Jake) Bird, (junior Jon) Olsen and then (freshman Zach) Pettway’s emergence … (and) Garcia’s given us two good starts (against Pepperdine), so you know, I think we’re happy with where those guys are at.”
The Bruins jumped out to an early lead in the second inning after sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf took Fullerton starter Tanner Bibee deep for his second homer of the season.
Later in the inning, freshman right fielder Garrett Mitchell added to the lead with a single up the middle, knocking home two more runs. He went on to record a third RBI later in the game, but his first hit would prove to be the game-winner.
Savage said it is important that underclassmen such as Strumpf and Mitchell in the middle of the order remain locked in because of the offensive firepower they possess.
“They’re a very talented group. Our sophomore class, I think, is one of the better position player classes in the country,” Savage said. “Those are some bats that we think have the chance to do some damage and that’s what they’ve been doing.”
In a 3-1 game in the bottom seventh, Savage turned to left-hander Nick Scheidler with one out and a man on second, despite a righty-versus-lefty matchup.
Scheidler forced a groundout that would move the runner over to third, but had to face yet another right-handed hitter. He forced a second ground ball, this time to sophomore shortstop Ryan Kreidler, but Kreidler was too slow to make the play, allowing a run to score.
Despite that run, Savage said he is not concerned, and will continue to utilize Scheidler against hitters on both sides of the plate.
“We are confident with him,” Savage said. “He is going to face right-handers all season. It’s not going to be strictly matchups,”
UCLA would break the game open in the eighth by hanging five runs on Cal State Fullerton. Sophomore first baseman Michael Toglia hit a solo home run to start the scoring, and the Bruins never looked back.
They would add on eight more runs in the final two innings, including a second home run from Toglia, this time from the right side of the plate.
UCLA will return to the field Wednesday for an exhibition game against South Korea’s NC Dinos at 3 p.m., a game that will allow some guys who have not played an opportunity to get some reps before a weekend trip to Minneapolis.
“I actually think the timing of it is pretty good,” Savage said. “It’s a tough week – we’ve got five games this week – but it’s a good opportunity to get some guys some at-bats and get some guys some innings.”