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UCLA baseball aims to complete season sweep of LMU ​in midweek road matchup

Freshman outfielder JonJon Vaughns made his first three career starts for No. 23 UCLA baseball over the weekend against Washington State. He is 4-for-19 with two home runs on the season. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)

Baseball


Loyola Marymount
Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Page Stadium
WCC Network

By Sam Connon

May 11, 2021 12:27 p.m.

With a future first-round pick missing from the lineup, the Bruins shook off their road woes over the weekend.

They may have to do so again in order to complete the season sweep of a fellow Los Angeles rival Tuesday night.

No. 23 UCLA baseball (27-15, 14-10 Pac-12) will make the short trip south to take on Loyola Marymount (16-26, 9-12 WCC) for a midweek bout, the last of four matchups between the schools this year. The Bruins have outscored the Lions 30-10 in the three completed games and have won the last 11 regular-season matchups between the two, dating back to 2014.

UCLA has also won three of its last four road games after opening the season 6-8 away from Jackie Robinson Stadium. Redshirt senior right fielder Jarron Silva said the energy his team has brought with it on the road – specifically during the last two games of the recent Washington State series – is something that has to be present again at LMU.

“I think there’s a lot that we can build off after this weekend,” Silva said. “We definitely need to carry that momentum onto Tuesday.”

A road midweek win isn’t out of the ordinary for this Bruin squad since they’re 2-0 in such games on the season. What is more unprecedented is how they were without junior shortstop Matt McLain the last three games against the Cougars and how they could be moving forward.

McLain, who had played in 113 of a possible 117 games in his collegiate career entering last weekend, was unable to step up to the plate in the series after suffering a right thumb fracture in practice. Junior right-hander Jesse Bergin said he missed not having McLain behind him in the field but that he was confident in the rest of his teammates to power through for however long the All-American is out.

“With Matt down, that’s obviously a bummer, but all of these guys know that we can’t keep an eye on that,” Bergin said. “We just need to do what the game calls for.”

The lineup, although it boasts six regulars hitting .270 and above, is worse off without McLain’s .325/.432/.578 slash line. The defense, on the other hand, managed to chug right along without him.

The Bruins didn’t commit a single error over the weekend, with junior second baseman Mikey Perez sliding over to short, redshirt junior center fielder Kevin Kendall coming in to play second and freshman outfielder JonJon Vaughns holding things down in center.

Both Bergin and coach John Savage had plenty of good things to say about Vaughns after UCLA clinched the series against Washington State on Sunday, with the skipper even calling the two-sport athlete a big piece of the team moving forward.

“He’s a big, physical outfielder that can run and throw,” Savage said. “He has a chance to be an elite center fielder in our program. He gets good reads, he gets good angles, he just has a knack to go get the ball, and he can really throw. So it’s kind of an interesting future.”

McLain’s status for Tuesday’s game is up in the air, but Vaughns – who is also a defensive back for UCLA football – seems to have carved out a role for himself in the lineup and out in the field should the former be unable to suit up against LMU.

Freshman right-hander Jake Brooks is slated to take the mound to open the game, taking over for junior right-hander Nick Nastrini, who posted a 12.27 ERA with 24.5 walks per nine innings in two starts as the Bruins’ midweek man. Brooks owns a 6.97 ERA on the season, with most of the damage coming in his only start of the year – a 1.1-inning, five-earned-run performance against the Lions on March 23.

Taking out Brooks’ last outing against LMU, his ERA is around 3.00 in nine innings of relief work.

Brooks will have a chance to get some revenge against the Lions’ bats at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and who winds up starting behind him in the unfamiliar field remains to be determined.

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Sam Connon | Alumnus
Connon joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2017 and contributed until he graduated in 2021. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats, while also contributing movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment.
Connon joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2017 and contributed until he graduated in 2021. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats, while also contributing movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment.
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