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Clutch catch from Duce Gourson helps UCLA baseball defeat USC

Sophomore second baseman Duce Gourson makes an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field. The inning-ending play came with the bases loaded, preventing USC from scoring. (Joseph Crosby/Daily Bruin senior staff)


No. 17 UCLA5

By Ava Abrishamchian

March 6, 2023 12:03 a.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium echoed with the cheers and jeers of the USC dugout as the Bruins’ Kelly Austin retook the mound with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third.

One pitch from the senior right-hander later, it was the sounds of UCLA fans ringing around the stadium as sophomore second baseman Duce Gourson made a run-saving catch in shallow right field to end the frame.

The enthusiasm was not an isolated moment as No. 17 UCLA baseball (9-2) defeated USC (5-5-1) by a score of 5-3 on Sunday afternoon in front of a packed house. The Bruins enjoyed their fourth straight win of the week, but coach John Savage said it wasn’t without any lessons learned.

“We’re having a little success, but it wasn’t an easy weekend,” Savage said. “It’s good to play tight games (with) a lot of big pitches, a lot of big defensive plays and a lot of big at-bats that can flip a game.”

Austin returned to the mound for the third straight week as the starting pitcher for Sunday’s game, stranding four runners while allowing no runs across his 4.1 innings of work.

“It was good being on the bump,” Austin said. “We felt that if we could acquire them early, … we were just going to shut down the whole game.”

Austin allowed leadoff hits in both the first and second innings, including a triple to start the ballgame, but was able to keep USC off the board.

Following a shutout of the Trojans in the first two frames, the Bruins came back offensively with junior outfielder JonJon Vaughns launching a homer into right field. With senior catcher Darius Perry on first, Vaughns’ dinger gave the Bruins an early 2-0 lead.

“(Kelly) just getting outs (on the mound) got us started up,” Vaughns said. “That fired me up. Taking it one game at a time, pitch by pitch and playing together.”

The offense continued into the bottom of the third when junior third baseman Kyle Karros singled to right field, followed by a double to right field from sophomore catcher Jack Holman. Holman’s two-bagger gave Karros enough time to round the bases and make it a 3-0 game.

Soon after, the Trojans put a run on the board with a double to right center. After the hit, redshirt sophomore right-hander Chris Aldrich was relieved by freshman right-hander Cody Delvecchio.

Austin was previously relieved with one out in the fifth inning by senior left-hander Jake Saum. Striking out the batter, Saum was relieved by Aldrich. Savage said the change in pitching wasn’t planned but was made as the game progressed.

“Austin’s always prepared, a mentally tough guy. He battled, he competed and made pitches, … and at times it didn’t look like he was going to get through two or three innings,” Savage said. “It’s all matchups. Right on right, left on left. We did a good job of getting the next guy and the next guy doing their job.”

Sophomore right-hander Luke Jewett was called on to close out the game for the second night in a row. Despite allowing a two-run homer with one out in the ninth, Jewett stranded runners at first and second to close out the Trojans.

“We have a saying on the team: passing the baton,” Austin said. “It’s just unreal as a starter, being able to come out of a tight game knowing that the game’s not going to get given up at any point in time because everyone behind (you is) just as good.”

The Bruins are back at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Tuesday at 5 p.m. for a midweek game against Long Beach State.

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Ava Abrishamchian
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