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Strong pitching propels baseball to fourth straight win to start season

Senior designated hitter Jake Pries went 2-for-4 against LMU on Tuesday, picking up a bases-clearing, three-RBI triple in the bottom of the third. Pries leads UCLA baseball with a .500 batting average through four games. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Matthew Kenney

Feb. 20, 2019 12:23 am

The Bruins capped off their season-opening homestand with another scoreless debut on the mound.

No. 4 UCLA baseball (4-0) took down Loyola Marymount (1-2) by a score of 5-0 on Tuesday night on the back of freshman right-hander Nick Nastrini’s 4 2/3 shutout innings in his first collegiate start. This came one game after another freshman right-hander, Jesse Bergin, started his Bruin career with 5 2/3 shutout innings of his own Sunday.

Nastrini’s nine strikeouts also tied the record set by Bergin for most strikeouts in a collegiate debut since coach John Savage took the helm.

“I thought (Nastrini) pitched pretty well,” Savage said. “He threw the ball for strikes for the most part, and he pitched out of some problems, which was good to see.”

Nastrini dealt with command issues in the first inning, walking two of the first three batters he faced. However, he bounced back with a strikeout and ground out to escape the jam.

“I definitely think I was a little too anxious, a little too nervous,” Nastrini said. “I was trying to do too much. Once I walked the second guy, I kind of just stepped off and told myself to go pitch by pitch, just execute my pitches.”

After the first, Nastrini retired 11 of the next 13 batters, including seven on strikeouts. He surrendered a leadoff double in the fourth, but retired the next three batters to strand the runner and record another scoreless inning.

Nastrini said that pitching from the stretch was an aspect of his game he focused on in the preseason.

“I really struggled with that throughout the fall,” Nastrini said. “I came in and I was OK in the windup, but I really struggled with runners on second. Working on it these past couple of weeks really helped me.”

Nastrini was pulled with two outs in the fifth inning and a runner on second. According to Savage, it was strictly a pitch count issue – the rookie had already thrown 74 pitches, and his limit for the night was 70.

On the offensive side, UCLA broke a scoreless tie with four runs in the third. Freshman center fielder Matt McLain drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the inning to drive in the first run, before senior designated hitter Jake Pries launched a bases-clearing triple off the left field wall.

“We had a good report on the team,” Pries said. “So we were put in a good place before the game to capitalize in that type of situation. They just put us in the best situation by loading the bases, and we came through.”

Pries has picked up five extra-base hits across UCLA’s first four games, one shy of his total in 46 games last season.

The Lions threatened to start a comeback in the sixth when they loaded the bases against right-handers freshman Sean Mullen and sophomore Michael Townsend. Savage turned to senior right-hander Nathan Hadley, who entered the game and struck out the next batter to end the inning.

The Bruins padded their lead in the bottom of the sixth, on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from junior third baseman Ryan Kreidler that put them up 5-0.

The UCLA bullpen took care of business the rest of the way, pitching three hitless innings to close the game out.

With Tuesday night’s win, the Bruins finished an undefeated homestand. They also did not give up an earned run in their first four games for the first time since 2011.

“Overall, it was a very successful homestand,” Savage said. “I especially liked our mindset on the mound. … We made the pitches when we had to.”

UCLA will now travel east for its first road games of the season, squaring off against Georgia Tech in a three-game series beginning Friday.

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Matthew Kenney | Alumnus
Kenney joined the Bruin as a sophomore in 2017 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He spent time on the baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's soccer, track and field and cross country beats.
Kenney joined the Bruin as a sophomore in 2017 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He spent time on the baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's soccer, track and field and cross country beats.
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