UCLA baseball clinches final home series with win over Washington State
Sophomore third baseman Kyle Karros gets ready to run after hitting a ball in Friday’s game. Karros recorded a season-high four RBIs in No. 23 UCLA baseball’s win Saturday over Washington State. (Olivia Simons/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 23 UCLA||10|
By Jared Tay
May 15, 2022 2:08 p.m.
In each of the opening two frames, the Bruins batted around.
The two innings saw a combined 19 hitters come to the plate, leading to a five spot in the first inning and a four spot in the second. The early offense paved the way for No. 23 UCLA baseball’s (32-18, 16-10 Pac-12) 10-1 series-clinching win over Washington State (23-25, 9-17) at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The offensive damage in the early frames came after the blue and gold mustered six hits for the entirety of Friday night.
A third of the way into the game Saturday, UCLA had already tallied 10 hits, leading to 10 runs in the early going. Sophomore third baseman Kyle Karros accounted for three of his team’s runs in the bottom of the first inning, with a second-pitch three-run home run that soared over the wall in straight away left field.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Karros said. “I was just looking to get a base hit or hit something hard. The pitch that I got was something that I could drive. It’s always nice to have some success and have something to show for it.”
His round-tripper came when there were already two outs in the inning, and the Bruins strung together three more singles to push the score to 5-0.
Karros was also the one to get the scoring started in the bottom of the second inning, as a sacrifice-fly into plated graduate student first baseman Jake Palmer.
“He’s (Karros is) a huge part of our lineup,” said graduate student left fielder Kenny Oyama. “When he’s going, we’re going. It’s good to see him get the ball rolling.”
Two ground balls – one of them a two-RBI knock from Oyama– were good enough to score three more runs, pushing the early Bruin lead to nine. Washington State right-hander Grant Taylor was chased 1.1 innings into his start after falling behind in the count to nearly every Bruin batter he faced.
Freshman left-hander Ethan Flanagan, on the other hand, allowed three hits over four scoreless innings for UCLA. Flanagan’s start was tied for the longest outing of the Bruins’ now-de facto Saturday starter, after multiple arms in the starting rotation went down because of injury.
Coach John Savage said he would have liked to work his starter for one more inning, but Flanagan’s pitch count at 72 was rising too high.
“He needs to pound the zone a little bit more,” Savage said. “He needs to get in better counts. He wasn’t pitch-efficient enough.”
This season, Flanagan has never been allowed to work more than four innings, usually coming out of the Bruins’ bullpen. However, the reliever was thrust into the weekend’s starting rotation two weeks ago after sophomore right-hander Jake Brooks sustained an injury.
“We’re not really into four-inning starts in the middle of May,” Savage said. “That’s not how we scripted it, but we are slicing it up in a bit of a different way right now. With the injuries, we’re piecing it together.”
Flanagan received more cushion in the third inning, when a 10th run came via the bat of second baseman Ethan Gourson, moving the freshman’s weekend RBI total to three.
The UCLA offense posted double-digit runs for the first time since games one and three of its series against Arizona State two weeks ago. In their five-game losing streak that was snapped by a 4-0 win against the Cougars on Friday, the Bruins never tallied more than four runs.
UCLA has a chance to finish off the series sweep Sunday, with redshirt sophomore right-hander Kelly Austin taking the mound in the finale.