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Baseball strikes back against Georgia State to claim victory in series

Freshman center fielder Matt McLain jacked his first career home run Saturday versus Georgia Tech. McLain went 4-for-11 with three RBIs and two walks in the three-game series. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)


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By Matthew Kenney

Feb. 25, 2019 12:24 a.m.

After a walk-off loss Friday, the Bruins kept the next two games from getting close.

No. 4 UCLA baseball (6-1) lost its first game of the season Friday, falling 4-3 in extra innings against Georgia Tech (3-3). The Bruins responded by winning 8-2 on Saturday and 6-0 on Sunday to take the series.

Game one went back and forth, culminating in Yellow Jacket catcher Kyle McCann launching a walk-off home run to center field off of junior right-hander Kyle Mora in the bottom of the 11th.

“It was a tough, hard-fought game,” said coach John Savage. “We played well on Friday, but we just didn’t come up with the big hit.”

UCLA first took the lead on a sacrifice fly from junior catcher Will McInerny in the second, but Georgia Tech stole the lead back with two runs in the bottom of the inning against sophomore right-hander Zach Pettway. This ended the Bruin pitching staff’s 37-inning streak without an earned run allowed to start the season.

Junior designated hitter Kyle Cuellar tied the game in the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly, before Georgia Tech retook the lead off of a solo homer from Luke Waddell in the fifth. The lead lasted all of half an inning, as junior Jack Stronach’s pinch-hit RBI single in the top of the sixth tied the game once again.

The game remained tied at three until McCann’s ball careened off of the batter eye’s five innings later. Mora pitched three scoreless innings of relief before the home run, striking out six.

Savage said the loss Friday added motivation to win Saturday.

“You have to respond,” Savage said. “It’s about bouncing back. … We realized that there was a lot of baseball left in the weekend, and we took advantage of that opportunity.”

The Bruins took control of the game early the next day, building a 6-1 lead through just three innings. Four of those runs came in the third, after a two-run double from junior first baseman Michael Toglia and a two-run home run from freshman center fielder Matt McLain.

It was McLain’s first collegiate home run, after he hit his first double earlier in the game.

UCLA padded its lead in the seventh and ninth innings on a solo homer from junior second baseman Chase Strumpf and a balk by Georgia Tech pitcher Amos Willingham, respectively.

On the mound, junior right-hander Jack Ralston threw five innings of two-run ball to earn the win, while the Bruin bullpen pitched four hitless innings to close out the game.

UCLA continued where it left off on Sunday behind freshman right-hander Jesse Bergin, who threw six shutout innings in his second collegiate start. Bergin has now thrown 11 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run to begin his career.

“It’s really just the tip of the iceberg,” Savage said about Bergin’s potential. “He’s had two good outings, but there’s a lot of work to do. But for a freshman to start off as well as he has is certainly promising.”

The UCLA offense backed Bergin with six runs, including four in the final three innings. After a throwing error and an RBI-single from Toglia put two across in the seventh, the Bruins added another two runs in the ninth on a solo homer from junior shortstop Ryan Kreidler and a bases-loaded walk by sophomore right fielder Garrett Mitchell.

The Yellow Jackets threatened to close the gap in the seventh, loading the bases against redshirt senior right-hander Nathan Hadley. However, Hadley retired the next batter on a groundout to escape the inning and hold onto the shutout.

In total, UCLA outscored Georgia Tech 14-2 and racked up 25 hits in the two games after the extra innings loss.

“I think this weekend was a good couple games on the road for us,” Savage said. “We needed to get on the road and see where we’re at. It’s a different mindset, a different feeling being on the road, and I think we responded well from Friday’s loss.”

UCLA will next head to Northridge, California, to play CSUN on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

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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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