Baseball winning streak at six after third victory over Cal State Fullerton
No. 6 UCLA baseball won its sixth consecutive contest Tuesday night, besting Cal State Fullerton to sweep the season series. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 6 UCLA||6|
|Cal State Fullerton||2|
By Sam Connon
March 10, 2021 2:00 p.m.
For the third time in the last week, the Bruins handled the Titans.
No. 6 UCLA baseball (9-3) completed the season sweep of Cal State Fullerton (4-7) with a 6-2 win Tuesday night. The Bruins outscored the Titans 26-4 across the three games and never trailed in any of them.
“It’s not easy to beat a team three different times over seven days,” said coach John Savage. “Particularly a very good program in Fullerton.”
Tuesday’s clash was far from the runaway victories of the first two matchups – 14-1 and 6-1 wins for UCLA – but junior right-hander Sean Mullen gave his team enough of a cushion thanks to his five innings of scoreless ball.
Mullen made his third-straight midweek start, and he has still yet to allow an earned run in that role. The righty fanned a career-high 10 batters – nine of which came on his cutter – to improve his strikeouts per nine innings mark to 12.4 and ERA to 0.43.
“(Mullen)’s worked really hard, he’s extremely competitive and he’s in the best shape of his life,” Savage said. “He’s getting comfortable being himself and you just got to give him a lot of credit. He’s giving us quality innings and competitive innings.”
Mullen picked up eight straight outs by way of the K, starting in the bottom of the third when he skirted his way around a bases-loaded jam. Control issues continued to put Mullen in tough spots, however, as he walked three batters in the game after walking just two in 16 innings of work prior to Tuesday.
The UCLA offense strung together long rallies and forced multiple pitching changes across the first few frames, all of which led to extended waits for Mullen in the dugout during most of his outing. Mullen said he had struggled in similar situations so far this season, but that he was able to make adjustments and come out more loose and focused after long innings Tuesday.
“That’s a problem that I’ve had, so I’m happy that it came up again today,” Mullen said. “Started throwing quite a bit, I did some bands, so I think that helped a lot, kind of keeping the body moving. And it’s really a point, after those big innings, you keep the momentum by going out there and throwing up a zero and putting them away.”
Whatever trouble Mullen found himself in, he was able to escape unscathed, and UCLA held a 4-0 lead when he was pulled in favor of freshman right-hander Jake Brooks.
Brooks gave up a leadoff triple and got stuck with two earned runs in the sixth, forcing senior right-hander Adrian Chaidez to come in and preserve the Bruins’ two-run lead. Chaidez did just that before passing the torch to senior right-hander Michael Townsend, who tossed scoreless seventh and eighth innings before redshirt senior right-hander Kyle Mora closed things out in the ninth.
UCLA’s pitchers combined to strike out a season-high 17 Fullerton batters on the night, although its own hitters struck out 10 times – tied for its second-most in its last 36 games.
The Bruins’ bats did almost all of their work in the third and fourth innings, with redshirt sophomore designated hitter JT Schwartz picking up an RBI single to get things rolling in the third. Following an RBI single by junior second baseman Mikey Perez in the fourth, junior first baseman Jack Filby drew a bases-loaded walk and junior shortstop Matt McLain drove in a run on a fielder’s choice to make it 4-0 UCLA.
“We’ve been talking lately about trying to take the first blow and punch first and all that and try and be the team that’s getting ahead early and be the aggressor,” Schwartz said.
Although the Bruins were only able to record one hit across the next four innings as their lead shrunk from four to two, a couple of insurance runs off a Filby RBI single and a Schwartz sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth helped seal the deal.
Schwartz missed UCLA’s first 10 games of the season with a sprained right MCL, but returned Sunday against USC and is now 5-for-8 with five RBIs on the year. He said he learned to contribute in other ways while he was hurt, all while reiterating how great it felt to get back in the lineup.
“I was definitely itching to get back out there,” Schwartz said. “But it was definitely good to take a back seat, be able to contribute without being on the field.”
UCLA will get back on the diamond for a weekend series against another Big West opponent, Cal Poly, starting Friday at 6 p.m. now riding a six-game winning streak.