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Ending losing streak, UCLA baseball defeats Long Beach State in marathon victory

Sophomore infielder Duce Gourson prepares to hit. Gourson’s game-tying home run in the ninth kept the Bruins alive. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


No. 23 UCLA4
Long Beach State3

By Anthony Aroyan

April 5, 2023 3:25 p.m.

Facing an extension to its five-game losing streak, the Bruins needed to change course soon.

Down to their final out and trailing by two runs, sophomore infielder Duce Gourson was their last hope.

And it was hope that he provided.

Powered by Gourson’s game-tying home run in the ninth inning, No. 23 UCLA baseball (17-8, 6-5 Pac-12) defeated Long Beach State (18-9, 6-3 Big West) in 13 innings by a score of 4-3. The marathon victory marked a first for the blue and gold after a nearly two-week drought.

“It’s a long season, go through some ups and some downs, we have been in some scuffles,” said coach John Savage. “The guys really answered it tonight, they stayed with each other, and it’s fortunate that we got a win tonight.”

The Bruins found themselves down early, as a ground ball dribbled across left field in the first inning to pave the way for the Dirtbags to send a runner home.

Responding in the second, three walks and a hit batter pushed senior catcher Darius Perry across home for the first Bruin run of the game. The offense was off to a slow start leading up to the equalizer, mustering just one hit through the first five frames.

Heading into the top of the eighth inning and down 3-1, UCLA began to piece together its most significant offensive display of the night. A single from Gourson eventually set up a bases-loaded situation for the blue and gold. But the team’s offensive woes continued, as they were unable to convert the opportunity heading into the final frame.

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Savage once again went to the bullpen and brought on sophomore Luke Jewett. The right-hander struck out outfielder Tyler White to get out of the inning and keep the deficit at two.

Still down at the top of the ninth, UCLA had one final chance to take the lead and force Long Beach to return to the plate. A walk put a runner on first, but back-to-back outs put the Bruins on their back foot.

Gourson was able to blast an inside fastball deep over the center-field wall, scoring the two runs needed to tie the game and forcing Long Beach to respond on the offensive end.

“It was good to shift the momentum; we’ve been trailing in a lot of games,” Gourson said. “I wasn’t really playing for a home run. It just fell in my lap. It was good to go out there and give us a chance to win.”

Jewett returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth, holding the Dirtbags off the board and sending the contest to extra innings.

The first three bonus frames remained quiet for both sides as neither team was able to gain the edge offensively. The deadlock was broken in the 13th inning as Perry, who had been walked in his at-bat, advanced to home off a sacrifice fly from graduate student catcher Knox Loposer.

Closing out the game, Jewett was able to restrain the bats of the Dirtbags to secure the win.

“I knew that I wanted the rest of the game,” Jewett said. “When Duce hit that home-run, I knew it was going to be a dogfight. I was ready to compete with my guys.”

UCLA’s 13-inning duel with Long Beach was the team’s longest contest of the season and its first win since March 24.

Savage was optimistic about the win’s implications for the rest of the series and his team’s momentum going forward.

“It was a hell of a win, a win we can certainly build off,” Savage said.

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