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‘It came down to 1 inning’: UCLA baseball suffers series loss at hands of Stanford

Senior right-hander Kelly Austin delivers a pitch during a home game. Austin lowered his conference-leading ERA to 2.34 over the weekend. (Ilan Berdy/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


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No. 7 Stanford6
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By Anthony Aroyan

May 1, 2023 4:37 p.m.

Up by one in the eighth inning, the Bruins were just six outs away from securing a series win over the Pac-12’s top team.

Instead, a Stanford grand slam would put those hopes out of reach.

UCLA baseball (24-15-1, 10-9-1 Pac-12) was unable to clinch the series in Sunday’s rubber match against No. 7 Stanford (28-13, 15-6). After splitting the first two games, an eighth-inning grand slam in the finale would prove to be the difference between the conference competitors.

Despite the pair of losses, coach John Savage said keeping the series close was a testament to the team’s ability to contend and develop over time.

“We were very competitive,” Savage said. “It came down to one inning on Sunday, so we can certainly build off this and get back to work this week.”

Continuing their California road trip, the opening game of the series was a tight affair. The Bruins were down 3-0 through the first six innings as the Cardinal stitched together a trio of one-run innings. Despite mounting a comeback at the top of the seventh and moving within one at the ninth inning, UCLA was unable to complete the comeback and fell 6-5.

Senior Kelly Austin was the story of Saturday’s game, filling in as the starter in place of fellow right-hander sophomore Alonzo Tredwell. The Costa Mesa local featured on the mound for seven innings, notching six strikeouts while allowing six hits on the night. Stanford was able to get three runs past Austin, including a home run, but just one was earned as he finished the game with a conference-leading ERA.

“I was just trying to give my team a shot,” Austin said. “At the end of the day, that’s all you’re trying to do as a starter, and I just wanted to put my team in a position to win the ballgame.”

Offensively, the Bruins were able to take advantage of 12 walked batters to score consistently throughout the match rather than rely on big innings.

Utilizing an even-keeled attack, all nine of UCLA’s starters got on base and seven players added an RBI to their stat sheet as the Bruins won 9-6.

“It was just seeing us play good team baseball,” Austin said. “The offense was putting together good at-bats, and we have guys coming through in the clutch.”

Needing a win in the third game to earn a series victory, the rubber match proved to be another narrow contest.

UCLA got its offense going early, finding two runs in the second frame. With the Cardinal walking two hitters early, the runs came off the bats of sophomore infielder Duce Gourson and freshman outfielder Jarrod Hocking. The Bruins would go on to score at least one in four straight innings.

Despite the early lead, Stanford was quick to bounce back in the bottom of the second inning, taking the lead with three runs of its own.

A 420-foot homer over the left-field fence from senior catcher Darius Perry was the equalizer in the third frame. Perry posted a team-leading five RBIs across the series, with three coming in game two.

“It’s always good to see him (Perry) go over the wall and hit really well,” Austin said. “But the premier thing for him is his defense, and he has been as consistent as they come this whole year. There’s not that many catchers in the country that can play that position as well as Darius Perry.”

Gradually building up to a 7-3 lead by the bottom of the fifth inning, UCLA began to give ground to Stanford. The Cardinal cut the deficit to one by the seventh-inning stretch, forcing Savage to bring in three different pitchers across the fifth and sixth frames.

UCLA was met with its worst-case scenario in the eighth inning. A grand slam by Stanford left fielder Alberto Rios shifted the lead in favor of the home team and created a three-run deficit for the Bruins. Unable to mount a comeback in the ninth, the Bruins walked away from Stanford with a 10-7 defeat and a lost series.

“What you saw from this series wasn’t so much the big players going out and being bigger,” Austin said. “It was guys who you weren’t seeing going out there and being serious role players. You want to have a competitive team in all facets, so it was good to see.”

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