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UCLA baseball scorches Sun Devils for 3rd sweep of season

Members of No. 13 UCLA baseball celebrate from the dugout during a game. The Bruins defeated the Sun Devils on Saturday and Sunday at Jackie Robinson Stadium, sweeping their series against Arizona State following a series-opening win Friday. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

baseball


Arizona State5
No. 13 UCLA7
Arizona State5
No. 13 UCLA16

By Jay Fenn

May 2, 2022 12:36 a.m.

With the chance to secure their third series sweep of the year, the Bruins’ bats came alive.

No. 13 UCLA baseball (30-13, 14-7 Pac-12) finished off a series sweep Sunday after taking down Arizona State (20-25, 9-12) by a score of 16-5, following up the Bruins’ 7-5 series-clinching win Saturday.

Two weeks after dropping its series to then-No. 22 Stanford, UCLA has won five of its last six Pac-12 games.

“Every week is equally important,” said coach John Savage. “Anybody can beat anybody at any given time. … You rebound in this league and you come back and you recover, and you can’t take anything for granted.”

While the Bruins’ Friday night starter, sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic, was two outs away from a complete game in the series opener, UCLA did not get the same start from freshman Ethan Flanagan on Saturday. The left-hander made it through 1.1 innings in his first start since Feb. 22, but junior right-hander Charles Harrison came out of the bullpen and pitched 4.1 innings – his longest outing of the season – while giving up two hits and one earned run.

UCLA entered the sixth inning trailing 5-2, but that all changed when freshman shortstop Cody Schrier stepped up to the plate and delivered a bases-clearing double to tie the contest at five apiece. Graduate student first baseman Jake Palmer followed that up with a double of his own to drive in Schrier and give the Bruins a lead they would not relinquish.

After UCLA dropped its series to USC in mid-March, Savage inserted Schrier into the leadoff spot and the freshman has yet to leave the top of the order since. The 18-year head coach said putting a player like Schrier at the top of the order has had a significant effect on the Bruins’ lineup.

“It’s needless to say, it (the switch) has been a game changer,” Savage said. “He’s a special player, and when he’s right he can really put a lot of good quality at bats together.”

UCLA opened Sunday’s game with a nine-run first inning. The Bruins made it through their entire lineup without recording an out, chasing Sun Devil right-hander Boyd Vander Kooi from the game after he allowed a season high in runs.

Savage said he liked his lineup’s approach to open the game.

“(It was an) impressive string of at bats,” Savage said. “They really pass the baton, and it was pretty good offense. It was as good of offense as you’re going to see at this level.”

The first inning was capped off by a grand slam from sophomore center fielder Carson Yates, who crushed the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to put the Bruins up 9-0.

Yates – who finished the weekend with six hits and six runs – said he stuck to his approach and it paid off.

“It was a big first inning. It was really exciting,” Yates said. “When they put the new guy in, Coach told me to be on the fastball to opposite field and if they hang anything else, be able to keep it fair.”

On the mound for the Bruins was redshirt sophomore right-hander Kelly Austin, who went four innings while giving up five runs on seven hits, reducing UCLA’s lead to 9-5. Freshman right-hander James Hepp and junior left-hander Josh Hahn both made their season debuts on the mound, relieving Austin, and both delivered shutout innings.

Savage said Sunday represented a first for him during his time at UCLA.

“I don’t think I’ve ever thrown two guys at this stage of the year in their first games, in conference, in 18 years,” Savage said. “I was really proud of that.”

The wins boost UCLA to second place in the Pac-12 standings – a game back from Oregon State.

Graduate student left fielder Kenny Oyama said the series is a morale boost before UCLA faces off with Long Beach State on Tuesday and Washington over the weekend.

“It (the win) gives us a lot of confidence to go out there and do what we need to do to get the win,” Oyama said.

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Jay Fenn | Sports staff
Fenn is currently a Sports staffer on the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat and a contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
Fenn is currently a Sports staffer on the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat and a contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
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