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‘We have to play better baseball’: UCLA aims to bounce back after California loss

Junior right-hander Jake Brooks is pictured twice in a double exposure, standing on the mound at left and delivering a pitch at right. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

Baseball


California10
UCLA7

By Benjamin Royer

May 6, 2023 12:04 p.m.

Coach John Savage put it bluntly after Friday night’s loss to the Golden Bears.

“We have to play better baseball,” Savage said.

UCLA baseball (24-17-1, 10-10-1 Pac-12) conceded eight unanswered runs to California (19-23, 7-15) before striking for six of its own in the fifth and sixth innings. However, the late rallies did not remedy the outcome, with the Bruins dropping their series opener at Jackie Robinson Stadium 10-7. UCLA has lost seven of its last ten contests and five of its past seven Pac-12 games.

Sophomore first baseman Jack Holman capped off a sixth-inning rally with a grand slam to bring his team within two runs; however, the lefty slugger’s long ball was for naught as the Bruins’ bullpen allowed two Cal insurance runs in the very next frame.

Savage said it is challenging to circumvent the Bruins’ recent struggles with injuries and the team’s current state.

“Obviously, things are frustrating right now, and we’re not playing the way we want to play and got a ton of guys hurt, and it’s just hard,” Savage said. “It’s just hard right now to piece things together.”

An early hole caused the Bruins to play from behind all night long.

Through his 4.1 innings on the mound, junior right-hander Jake Brooks allowed four home runs and eight runs – seven earned – and could not escape after loading the bases in the fifth inning.

Hard contact proved to damage Brooks’ on Friday night, with flyouts contributing to seven of the 13 outs the righty recorded, while six of nine hits conceded were extra-base knocks.

Brooks said his outing was not what the team needed with the postseason lurking closer.

“I think I just had a bad day,” Brooks said. “I hate to say it with where we’re at and what we need to do to get to where we need to get to, but my stuff wasn’t playing today.”

Offensively, six Bruins tallied hits, and junior infielder Daylen Reyes helped lead the way, notching a single and a double during the contest.

The plug-and-play infielder – who reentered the lineup at the same time sophomore shortstop Cody Schrier exited due to a left-shoulder surgery – has emerged as the leadoff hitter in Savage’s recent lineups.

Despite coming up short against Cal and recording the final out as the game-tying run at the plate, Reyes said the lineup needs to realize offensive bursts are always in the cards.

“I think it’s mostly about staying together and realizing – we put up five – it’s realizing that that (a big inning) can happen at any moment,” Reyes said. “It’s not about what you’re doing necessarily. It’s about the guys behind you, and trusting them, and just keep passing it (the bat) at the end of the day.”

Heading into the series, UCLA’s rating percentage index – a statistic that tracks wins, losses and strength of schedule – was 42nd in the nation.

After dropping game one to the Pac-12’s last-place team, the Bruins would likely need to take the series from the Golden Bears for it to markedly improve its NCAA regional selection hopes.

Savage said despite the possible must-win context, he is not thinking about what’s coming up on the schedule, but more about the results of the next game.

“We just got to play better each and every day,” Savage said. “I’m not really looking ahead too much. We can’t afford anything right now. I mean, we have to – we have to – play better baseball.”

UCLA will attempt to return to the win column Saturday at 2 p.m. for the second game of the series.

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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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