UCLA baseball scores series win over Arizona on Tucson road trip
Sophomore right-hander Jake Brooks prepares to throw a pitch in a game March 11 against USC at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Brooks picked up the win against then-No. 11 Arizona for UCLA baseball on Friday in Tucson. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)
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By Jay Fenn
March 28, 2022 1:50 p.m.
Two weeks after dropping their Pac-12 opener, the Bruins returned to conference play to knock off a ranked opponent.
UCLA baseball (15-8, 3-3 Pac-12) traveled to Tucson over the weekend, where it defeated then-No. 11 Arizona (17-7, 6-3) on Friday and Sunday but dropped the Saturday night contest. Despite the Wildcats entering the series averaging 8.3 runs per game, the Bruins’ pitching staff held the home team to nine runs over the three meetings.
Coach John Savage said he was proud of how his team competed throughout the weekend to come out with a series win on the road.
“(The weekend) was very successful,” Savage said. “You’re talking about one of the hardest places to play in the conference and a team that has been historically very, very difficult at home. We’re growing up, and it was a big step in the right direction.”
UCLA gave the ball to right-hander Jake Brooks on Friday, with the sophomore delivering 6.2 innings of two-run ball on seven hits. Brooks said he had a lot of respect for the Wildcats’ offense coming in and knew it was going to be a tough job to contain Arizona’s bats.
“We walked in there knowing Arizona could hit the ball really well, being a top-15 team in the country,” Brooks said. “We had a pretty good plan to attack them, and I executed that plan really well. Executing the pitches really helped me this weekend.”
Behind the right-hander, the Bruins plated 10 runs en route to a 10-2 victory Friday. Shortstop Cody Schrier highlighted UCLA’s offensive production with a sixth-inning grand slam, giving the freshman his team-leading fifth home run of the year.
On Saturday, sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic made the start for the blue and gold, but the freshman All-American went a season-low 2.2 innings while giving up four runs, only one of which was earned. A quartet of Bruin pitchers closed out the game, including redshirt sophomore right-hander Kelly Austin, who pitched a team-high 3.1 innings.
Brooks said he has enjoyed watching the bullpen, which did not allow any runs Saturday, grow and develop as the season has progressed.
“Our bullpen is really young, and we have some veteran guys that hold it down,” Brooks said. “But for the most part, a lot of those innings are being held by the young guys and give them more experience at the college level. They’ve really developed into being really good for our team.”
With the series on the line Sunday afternoon, right-hander Thatcher Hurd took the mound for UCLA. The freshman delivered six innings while allowing two hits and one earned run to lead the blue and gold to a 7-3 series-clinching victory.
With the game tied at two in the sixth inning, junior designated hitter Josh Hahn smacked a two-run home run to right field to give the Bruins the lead. Graduate student first baseman Jake Palmer – who was hit by a pitch to give UCLA its first run of the game in the first inning – was hit by a pitch once more to open the sixth and scored on Hahn’s blast.
Hahn said he was happy to step up to the plate in a big situation and deliver for his team.
“In my head, I just wanted to keep passing it along and get the next Bruin up,” Hahn said. “Fortunately, I was able to battle against (right-hander Dawson) Netz, and he left one over the plate and I was able to get my best swing off.”
The Bruins will return to action at Jackie Robinson Stadium against UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
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