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Against Washington, UCLA baseball drops 1st Pac-12 series of the season

Junior outfielder JonJon Vaughns loads up on a pitch. Vaughns launched a three-run homer in the Bruins’ attempted comeback against Washington on Sunday. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


Washington11
No. 12 UCLA10

By Benjamin Royer

March 27, 2023 3:33 p.m.

Sunny, with a slight breeze and a packed crowd.

The atmosphere at Jackie Robinson Stadium was a showcase of Westwood in the spring.

However, a purple and gold storm brewed and ultimately poured throughout Sunday afternoon’s contest, leading to 21 hits from Washington (16-6, 4-2 Pac-12) – the highest total the Bruins have conceded in 2023 and the most since their 47-run thriller in the Pac-12 tournament last season. No. 12 UCLA baseball (16-5, 6-3 Pac-12) could not come back from a seven-run seventh inning explosion from the Huskies and lost 11-10, dropping its first Pac-12 series of the season.

The blue and gold tallied nine hits but failed to make up the lofty run deficit.

“We have got to be able to in the next 24 hours flush this and move on to the next game,” said senior right-hander Kelly Austin.

Coach John Savage did not pull any punches regarding the series loss and said the team needs to focus on improving.

“We have got to get better this week, which we will,” Savage said. “We’re going to get healthier, but that’s not really the message. The message is really, we have got to get better.”

Three-run home runs from junior outfielders Carson Yates and JonJon Vaughns in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, brought the score within two runs, while an RBI single from sophomore center fielder Malakhi Knight cut Washington’s lead to one. But the Bruins left the bases loaded in the eighth and couldn’t rally for the lead in the ninth.

The game was a low-scoring affair up until the seventh, with the Bruins holding a slight edge halfway through the contest.

After a start reminiscent of the May 2022 showdown against Huskies’ right-hander Jared Engman, the blue and gold – down two runs – put together a fourth-inning rally to halt its foe’s success on the rubber.

Engman, who hurled seven scoreless innings to help secure a series sweep against the Bruins last season, faced one batter above the minimum through three frames. However, his 10-inning scoreless streak against UCLA came to a close when sophomore shortstop Cody Schrier ripped an RBI single for the Bruins’ first run.

Later in the inning, sophomore first baseman Jack Holman and Vaughns combined for an RBI sacrifice fly and RBI single, respectively, as UCLA overtook Washington for a 3-2 lead.

But the one-run advantage was short-lived.

The Huskies tallied one run against Austin in the sixth and three against redshirt sophomore right-hander Chris Aldrich in the seventh.

Austin said the team faced difficult scenarios throughout the series but that conference play will give it similar challenges during the season.

“We’ve talked about it before. The whole Pac-12 is going to be able to swing it, and they’re all going to be able to pitch it,” Austin said. There’s not really a bad team in this conference … At the end of the day, it’s not our best day pitchingwise, and we’ve just got a little bit of adversity that we’ve got to deal with this weekend.”

As Savage turned to senior left-hander Jake Saum and junior right-hander Caedon Kottinger to lessen the blow, both relievers allowed earned runs within the Huskies’ seventh-inning barrage.

Washington’s seven-run frame, as well as an insurance run in the eighth, provided enough breathing room for the Huskies to close out the affair – and series – despite the efforts from Yates and Vaughns.

Vaughns was the tying run at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but struck out swinging to end the ballgame. Even in defeat, the veteran Bruin said there is a need for positivity.

“Just how I act and how my attitude is to stay positive and keep it going,” Vaughns said.”If I see them down, I just keep on pushing them and say, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go,’ and we’ll be fine.”

UCLA will attempt to return to the win column on Tuesday for a midweek tilt at Cal State Fullerton.

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Benjamin Royer | Alumnus
Royer was 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 also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
Royer was 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 also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
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