Each of the Bruins’ games this weekend came down to one inning.
No. 9 UCLA baseball (29-10) earned its third sweep in a row after defeating Cal Poly (19-23) on Sunday in San Luis Obispo, California. The Bruins earned comeback victories Friday and Saturday, but almost squandered a lead in the ninth Sunday.
However, they held on for a 6-4 win.
Cal Poly loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 6-3, after freshman closer Holden Powell walked a Mustang batter. Powell then threw a wild pitch allowing a runner to score, and moving the tying run into scoring position.
Powell forced the next batter into a fly out and escaped with the save.
“We ran (Powell) out there three days in a row. We had other guys in the bullpen in case something happened, but you win or lose with your closer,” said coach John Savage. “It’s not an easy job, and for a young guy to do it on the road three days in a row – I was very proud of him.”
The Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Cal Poly answered in the bottom of the second with three of their own.
After a mistake-ridden second inning in which the Bruins made a pair of errors, UCLA allowed just two hits until the ninth inning.
“It started off a little shaky, but we were able to stick with it, make pitches when it mattered,” said sophomore pitcher Ryan Garcia. “As a result, the offense started getting hot and it carried over to the rest of the game.”
Garcia threw five innings and recorded eight strikeouts to earn the win, improving to 5-0.
However, the Bruins’ offense struck out 11 times and had just one extra-base hit, but scored 1 run in the fifth, sixth and seventh frames to close out the Mustangs.
“I thought at times we didn’t put a whole lot of at-bats together, but we did enough. We know we have a good offensive team, but you know it’s not going to be double-digit runs every game – it just doesn’t work that way,” Savage said. “It was a good nonconference weekend for us RPI-wise. We kept the momentum going.”
The Bruin bats failed to produce in all but one inning Saturday, but managed to come away with the win and a series victory.
Both teams were shut out for the first five innings before Cal Poly put up a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.
UCLA wasted no time eliminating the deficit, though. After the Bruins scored 3 runs in the sixth to tie the game, freshman shortstop Kevin Kendall hit the first triple of his career to make it 5-3 and then sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf brought him home on a double.
The Bruins’ freshman starter Zach Pettway allowed eight hits, including the homer, in 6 2/3 innings pitched to earn the win and improve his record to 7-1.
UCLA scored 5 runs in the eighth frame Friday to earn the 9-5 series-opening victory.
Cal Poly took a 5-4 lead with a 2-run seventh inning, but the Bruins answered a frame later. Cal Poly saw the entire UCLA batting order as the Bruins earned 5 runs on five hits – three for extra bases.
“I think Friday and Saturday the biggest thing was just staying with it. We never doubted ourselves no matter how many runs they put in one inning,” said redshirt junior catcher Daniel Rosica. “Just staying with our offensive approach, wearing pitchers down, getting into the bullpen.”
Senior pitcher Jake Bird had earned the win in each of his prior three starts going into Friday’s contest, but was given a no-decision after allowing 5 runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. Sophomore Kyle Mora improved his record to 5-1, throwing one shutout inning.
The injury status of junior pitcher Jon Olsen and redshirt sophomore pitcher Kyle Molnar will be available this week, Savage said.
The Bruins will remain on the road for a rematch against UC Irvine on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.