UCLA baseball falls to Arizona State in final regular-season series
Junior infielder Daylen Reyes readies for a pitch. Reyes notched six hits in the series against Arizona State. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin)
May 21, 2023 2:58 p.m.
Freshman left-hander Chris Grothues took the mound Saturday in the bottom of the eighth inning with the game and series each tied at one apiece.
Making his collegiate debut, Grothues recorded two outs before facing outfielder and former UCLA player Nick McLain with the chance to keep the game tied.
But it was McLain and the Sun Devils who won the battle and the war.
Behind a go-ahead home run, Arizona State (31-22, 16-13 Pac-12) defeated UCLA baseball (27-23-1, 12-16-1) by a score of 2-1 in Saturday’s rubber match. Dropping the series two games to one, the Bruins were walked off 5-4 in Thursday’s opener before knotting the series with a 6-3 win Friday.
Despite the outcome of the final game, coach John Savage said he was pleased with his pitchers.
“3-1 breaking ball and he hit it out of the ballpark, so you got to give him (McLain) credit,” Savage said. “At the end of the day, we started … four freshmen today, and I really couldn’t be any happier the way they threw.”
With the series tied up until Saturday afternoon, the Bruins returned to Phoenix Municipal Stadium with the chance to cap their regular season off with a win. Pitching for three innings, freshman right-hander Michael Barnett held off the Sun Devils, only allowing a single baserunner during his outing.
After 36 pitches from Barnett, freshman left-hander Ben Jacobs entered and proceeded to allow the first home run of the game by the Sun Devils. Following Jacobs, freshman right-hander Finn McIlroy consecutively retired eight batters after hitting his first batter faced.
“I think that we’re passing the baton very well to each other and picking each other up if we’re needed to come into the game,” Barnett said. “With one of our starters out this weekend, it was a great opportunity for me to come in and pick us up.”
The series opened Thursday with the Bruins scoring four runs, including a game-tying single from junior infielder Daylen Reyes in the top of the ninth inning to plate freshman outfielder Toussaint Bythewood. However, a walk-off double from infielder Luke Keaschall in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Arizona State the first win of the series.
A strong Friday night comeback with four early runs put UCLA in the win column. After scoring four runs in the second and third frames, the Bruins finished off the game with an insurance homer in the ninth by sophomore infielder Duce Gourson, clinching their spot in the Pac-12 tournament.
UCLA only tallied one run Sunday afternoon, when junior outfielder JonJon Vaughns homered to right-center field in the second frame. While the Sun Devils tied the game with a long ball of their own in the fourth inning, it was the eighth-inning homer that left the Bruins with a loss similar to Thursday night.
Senior outfielder/left-hander Josh Hahn said UCLA needs to cushion its leads early to prevent last-minute defeats.
“It really has to be done earlier in the game,” Hahn said. “Offensively, when we were given opportunities to score runs, we got to put an exclamation point on it and pull through and pass the baton to the next guy, and that’s something we didn’t really do.”
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