The Bruins had their highest scoring Friday night of the season against their highest-ranked opponent of season.
No. 2 UCLA baseball (13-3, 1-0 Pac-12) opened up Pac-12 play Friday with an 8-0 win over No. 3 Oregon State (13-2-1, 0-1-0) in college baseball’s highest-ranked matchup of the season so far. This was coach John Savage’s 500th career win, and the Bruins’ eight runs were the team’s most since their opening series against the St. John’s Red Storm.
The Bruins jumped out to an early lead in the second inning thanks to an RBI single by sophomore shortstop Kevin Kendall, scoring junior first baseman Michael Toglia from second base. UCLA would tack on another two runs in the very next inning as sophomore right fielder Garrett Mitchell doubled, setting up junior left fielder Jack Stronach to hit a home run that curved around right field foul pole.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well recently and just trying to stick with what’s best for me,” Stronach said. “The less I think, the better for me, personally.”
Stronach batted in the cleanup spot for the first time this season Friday night, and –along with his home run – he was 2-for-2 with a walk and RBI sacrifice fly. His .471 batting average currently leads the team.
“Mike (Toglia) has been struggling a little bit so we relieved his pressure a little bit,” Savage said. “We knew Jack (Stronach) would handle that well, so there’s another guy that we trust very much.”
UCLA extended its lead in the seventh inning, scoring four insurance runs to secure the victory. The Bruins immediately loaded the bases with no outs and would score their runs off catcher’s interference, RBI singles by Toglia and freshman center fielder Matt McLain, and Stronach’s sacrifice fly. The eight runs scored by the Bruins were the most given up by the Beavers’ pitching staff this season.
“When you’re behind it’s more difficult to spark a rally than when you’re ahead,” Stronach said. “I think it comes down to having quality at-bats.”
On the mound, sophomore right-hander Zach Pettway who pitched seven innings without allowing a run and notched his first victory of the season. He also recorded eight strikeouts Friday, adding to his team-leading 39 strikeouts on the season.
“He understands the task of being a Friday night guy and going against one of the best teams in the country,” Savage said. “The good thing about Zach (Pettway) is his perseverance, he’s a competitor and I knew he’d bounce back.”
In his previous start, Pettway gave up six runs through 6 2/3 innings, four of which came in the first inning. After the third inning, he did not allow another run and it seemed to him that Friday’s performance was an extension of his last start.
“I felt a lot better,” Pettway said. “I kind of used the later innings in my last outing and let that rollover and use the same mentality to win this game. Last week, I didn’t have as good of a mentality right away and it kind of affected me.”
The Bruins’ eight runs were also the most run support Pettway has had this year. After pitching from behind or with a small lead for the majority of the season so far, Pettway said having a lead allows him to relax on the mound.
“I think you get more comfortable,” Pettway said. “You have that energy going in the dugout and that definitely is a factor in the game.”
UCLA will continue its series against the Oregon State on Saturday at 6 p.m. back at Jackie Robinson Stadium.