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Pitching staff leads UCLA baseball to opening series sweep against Omaha

Senior right-hander Kelly Austin steps toward home plate as he throws a knuckle-curve. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


Omaha1
No. 17 UCLA8

By Benjamin Royer

Feb. 20, 2023 4:16 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 20 at 11:08 p.m.

With just two runs conceded in three games, the Bruins’ pitching staff dominated the Mavericks’ bats en route to a series sweep.

No. 17 UCLA baseball’s (3-0) offense took the back seat Sunday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Stadium and allowed its pitching to claim the spotlight against Omaha (0-3). The blue and gold surrendered one run or less for the third-straight contest as it rode seven pitchers’ performances to earn the 8-1 victory.

Kelly Austin set the stage for the bullpen with five scoreless innings in his first start of the 2023 campaign.

“Austin was Austin,” said coach John Savage. “I mean, he really made pitches when he had to.”

The senior right-hander moved into the Sunday slot in the starting rotation after sophomore left-hander Ethan Flanagan was shut down for the Omaha series. Austin needed just 71 pitches for his five frames, striking out six in the process.

The Costa Mesa, California, native stranded runners on third base in the top of the third and fifth innings to keep runs off the scoreboard.

“It’s always good starting off the season on the right foot,” Austin said. “It’s really where you want to be. It’s a team game. So I’m happier about the fact that we came out and pounded these guys three games straight.”

Omaha threatened in the top of the sixth as Savage shuffled through three relief pitchers to get through the frame.

Redshirt sophomore right-hander Chris Aldrich inherited two runners on base with one out, but maneuvered UCLA out of the traffic jam by inducing a pair of groundouts.

Freshman right-hander Cody Delvecchio and senior right-hander Charles Harrison followed by each striking out the side in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. The latter of the righties allowed a solo home run with two outs in the eighth – Omaha’s only run of the game.

Sophomore right-hander Luke Jewett, named “the Closer” by Savage, made his season debut in the ninth inning and struck out one batter to end the contest.

“I like our seventh, eighth and ninth (innings), I really do,” Savage said. “I think that it has a chance to be pretty good. It shortens the game. It takes the heat off our starters. Our starters don’t need to go seven or eight innings. They just don’t.”

Offensively, the Bruins added eight runs to their weekend total and capped off the series with 47 runs scored.

Sophomore designated hitter Jack Holman helped the Bruins strike first in the bottom of the second with a two-run blast over the right field wall.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys in the lineup that get on base,” Holman said. “Luckily they got on base a lot, and it makes it easy for me to drive in runs. … Wherever I’m hitting, my teammates make it easy.”

Junior outfielder JonJon Vaughns capped off the scoring with a two-run home run of his own in the bottom of the eighth. Vaughns launched a low pitch off the batter’s eye in center field for his second dinger in as many days.

Juniors outfielder Carson Yates and third baseman Kyle Karros added RBIs in the fourth and seventh frames, respectively, while senior catcher Darius Perry upped his season RBI total to seven with a two-RBI single of his own.

The Bruins completed the opening series sweep for the first time since 2020 and ended the contest with fireworks on defense.

Sophomore center fielder Malakhi Knight made a diving catch to end the game, a competitive cherry on top of the first three-game set of 2023.

Savage said he’s excited about Knight’s potential in the outfield over the next two seasons.

“He’s a shutdown center fielder,” Savage said. “I love him being in center. There’s nothing better than a good center fielder.”

UCLA will attempt to stay undefeated Tuesday when it hosts Pepperdine at 5 p.m.

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Benjamin Royer | Assistant Sports editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
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