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UCLA baseball defeats Utah in first game of series after gaining early lead

Senior right-hander Kelly Austin pitches the ball. Austin struck out 11 batters over seven innings Thursday against Utah. (Joseph Crosby/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Baseball


Utah3
No. 23 UCLA5

By Benjamin Royer

April 7, 2023 12:47 p.m.

Five runs were all the Bruins needed.

No. 23 UCLA baseball (18-8, 7-5 Pac-12) hopped out to a five-run lead in the third inning Thursday night and never looked back, riding the performance of senior right-hander Kelly Austin and defeating Utah (11-17, 3-10) by a score of 5-3. The blue and gold won its second consecutive game, just two days after snapping its five-game losing streak.

The Bruins’ lofty run cushion provided Austin with early insurance that he used to reach new heights. Coach John Savage was complimentary of his veteran pitcher’s performance.

“If you had a couple of Kelly Austin’s at the end of last season, you probably would have seen us in Omaha,” Savage said.

Austin struck out a career-high 11 batters and earned his third victory via the longest outing of his career. The Orange Coast College transfer hurled seven innings and walked none – for the second time in 2023 – while allowing four hits and three runs, two of which were earned.

“When you think as a kid growing up – going through high school – about playing for UCLA, this (is) stuff that you think about,” Austin said. “I’m pumped.”

Primarily the Sunday starter, Austin shifted to Thursday night – because no contest would be played on Easter Sunday – and set a rhythm quickly.

Utah went nine up, nine down against the righty as Austin commanded the strike zone with five strikeouts through three innings. Despite allowing two runs in the fourth and one unearned in the fifth, Savage kept his starter in the affair.

Austin pushed forward, striking out the side in the sixth and working around a leadoff single to strike out two more in a scoreless seventh. He said working through tough situations during games is something that helps the team prepare for future contests.

“We worked this hard to get our team into the position that we’re in,” Austin said. “We can’t let it slip. So, we teach our guys to be a tough-nosed ballclub and that’s what it was.”

Savage called upon his bullpen for the rest of the night. Senior right-hander Charles Harrison worked a clean eighth before freshman right-hander Cody Delvecchio earned his first collegiate save, striking out one batter in a scoreless final frame.

On offense, UCLA’s lineup collected nine hits Thursday night, but only scored before the sun went down at Jackie Robinson Stadium – tallying five runs in the first three innings.

Sophomore shortstop Cody Schrier helped start two rallies with a single and double in the first and third innings, respectively.

The Bruins’ three-hole hitter came around to score in both frames, touching home for two of UCLA’s five runs and chasing Utah left-hander Ernesto Lugo-Canchola from the game before he could reach the fourth inning.

Schrier said he was proud of the lineup’s readiness at the plate.

“Our approach was very elite in the first three innings,” Schrier said. “We went in there with the plan, and we executed it really well.”

Sophomore first baseman Jack Holman led the team with two RBIs, earning his first on an RBI single and his second when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

UCLA will return to action Friday at 5 p.m., attempting to start a winning streak against Utah.

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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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