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Baseball’s strong bullpen helps pull Bruins ahead in tight games

Redshirt senior right-hander Nathan Hadley made 62 appearances on the mound in his career with UCLA baseball. Hadley owns a 1.74 ERA this season. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Jack Matull

April 17, 2019 12:04 am

While the Bruins’ offense ranks as one of the top in the country, its bullpen is not far behind.

No. 1 UCLA baseball (28-6, 9-3 Pac-12) has maintained its top rank for the past five weeks, and the offense has averaged 6.75 runs over the past 12 games. However, it is the relief pitching that has helped the Bruins stay in games and continue to come from behind and win. UCLA has won 10 of its last 12 games, and its bullpen has a 1.50 ERA over that stretch.

“It’s really comforting knowing that we have a strong bullpen,” said junior first baseman Michael Toglia. “It’s nice knowing that if our starters scuffle a little bit that they’re going to come in and they can slam the door when they need them.”

During that 12-game span, the Bruins have come from behind to win five times, four of which have occurred in the past week. In those five comeback victories, the bullpen has allowed just three earned runs over 16 2/3 innings.

Most of the bullpen appearances are given to the right-handed quartet that is redshirt senior Nathan Hadley, sophomore Holden Powell, freshman Jack Filby and junior Kyle Mora. Between the four of them, they have racked up 88 2/3 innings pitched and a combined 2.14 ERA.

“Those guys have been so dependable and reliable,” said coach John Savage. “That’s why our starters need to get through five innings and then turn it over to the bullpen.”

Though marked down as an infielder in game programs, Filby has come in more as a pitcher than hitter this season. His 1.46 ERA is the lowest of the four go-to relievers and his 2 1/3-inning appearance against East Carolina on Friday was his longest of the year.

Hadley has appeared in 20 games this season and – despite being a middle reliever – his six wins are the most of any UCLA pitcher so far this season. He had missed the entire 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery and was limited to just 16 appearances in 2018 after returning =.

“Last year wasn’t the best of years, but coach has always had my back and had the confidence in me,” Hadley said. “The more I pitched, the more I threw off the mound, I got more and more comfortable.”

Hadley owns a 1.74 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP in his first full season since 2016.

“It’s inspiring really, to see what (Hadley)’s had to go through,” Toglia said. “To see him come back and do well, I’m proud of him. We’re all proud of him, coach is proud of him, and it’s really exciting to see what he’s doing.”

The eighth and ninth innings are typically reserved for Mora as the setup man and Powell as the closer. Powell has not given up a run in over a month, and the duo has a combined for 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings on the season.

“Those are the guys behind you that you want to have in the game,” sophomore right-hander Zach Pettway said. “Whenever they’re in the game, you trust them.”

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Jack Matull | Sports reporter
Matull is currently a Sports reporter. He was previously a contributor on the baseball and cross country beats.
Matull is currently a Sports reporter. He was previously a contributor on the baseball and cross country beats.
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