Baseball returns victorious from Frisco College Classic, maintains undefeated streak
Sophomore infielder Mikey Perez played in all three games for UCLA baseball at the Frisco College Classic in Frisco, Texas. On Sunday against Illinois, Perez went 2-for-2 at the plate, notching one RBI. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)
|No. 10 UCLA||14|
By Will Foote
March 2, 2020 1:44 a.m.
The Bruins delivered a typical performance on the mound and again set season bests at the plate to leave Frisco, Texas, just as they arrived – undefeated.
UCLA entered its third and final game of the Frisco College Classic with the pitching staff allowing 3.9 hits and one run per game to its opponents, and the Bruin offense tallying 10.3 hits and 7.1 runs per game over their first 10 outings of the season.
No. 10 UCLA baseball (11-0) did almost exactly that on the mound Sunday against Illinois (5-4), limiting the Fighting Illini to four hits and one run, while the Bruins’ bats scored 14 runs on 17 hits – both offensive season-highs – en route to a 14-1 victory.
“We proved that we could play pretty well at home,” said coach John Savage. “You’ve got to be able to go and play on the road. There were some good signs, and we got what we wanted out of the weekend.”
Sophomore right-hander Jesse Bergin surrendered his first earned run of the season in the game’s opening inning on a double by Fighting Illini first baseman Kellen Sarver. Bergin allowed four hits and walked three while striking out six in his third start of the season.
UCLA trailed for less than two innings, as its 14 unanswered runs began with a two-spot in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore second basemen Mikey Perez’s one-run double tied the game, and senior catcher/designated hitter Will McInerny followed one batter later with an RBI single of his own to bring home Perez and give the Bruins the lead.
Perez entered the classic batting 1-for-9 on the season, but was 5-for-10 in UCLA’s three games this weekend, including going 2-for-2 with a career-high five runs scored against Illinois.
“Making an emphasis to slow down and not do too much ended up working a lot better for me,” Perez said. “Learning from previous games, I was able to see the ball a lot better today and put a couple good swings on some balls.”
Following Bergin’s departure after five innings, the bullpen combined to tally five strikeouts over four perfect innings to end the game. With 11 total strikeouts against the Fighting Illini, the Bruins’ pitching staff has now recorded double-digit punch-out totals in nine of its 11 games this season.
“Our bullpen’s been incredible; that’s not even a question,” Perez said. “They make it a lot easier on the defense because they’ve been so locked in with their pitches and Savage’s pitch-calling.”
Junior right-hander Michael Townsend – who has yet to allow a hit this season – induced a groundout by an Illinois pinch hitter to end the sixth inning and complete the equivalent of a nine-inning no-hitter over his nine appearances out of the bullpen to begin the season. Townsend returned in the seventh inning and struck out the side in order, finishing with four strikeouts against five batters in 1 2/3 innings pitched.
“That’s a testament to (Townsend’s) work ethic,” Savage said. “He’s a tremendous worker, team player. The pitching staff trusts (Townsend). He’s becoming a really high-end, dependable reliever.”
The Bruins will end their road trip against UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m, before playing two home games in next weekend’s Southern California College Baseball Classic.