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UCLA baseball leaves Gonzaga scoreless to cap off season-opening series sweep

Sophomore right-hander Michael Barnett delivers a pitch during the 2023 campaign. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Baseball


Gonzaga0
No. 20 UCLA6

By Kai Dizon

Feb. 19, 2024 10:00 a.m.

This post was updated Feb. 19 at 9:34 p.m.

Uncertainty surrounded Michael Barnett heading into Sunday’s game.

Despite being the only pitcher with prior experience as a starter entering the weekend, coach John Savage said the sophomore right-hander wasn’t looking like a player the Bruins could rely on to cement a pitching staff that lost five starters from the 2023 team.

“He hasn’t looked confident – he has struggled,” Savage said. “He hasn’t been that good.”

In his 2024 season debut, however, Barnett laid waste to any concerns.

“This is the best outing we’ve seen in a couple months,” Savage said.

On the heels of five scoreless innings from Barnett, No. 20 UCLA baseball (3-0) cruised to a 6-0 shutout victory over Gonzaga (0-3), sweeping the season’s opening series. The Lafayette, California, local struck out six batters, walked none and allowed just three hits.

“I learned a lot from the fall and winter,” Barnett said. “It built up into how I want to play this season.”

In the top of the third, a pair of Gonzaga singles and an error from redshirt junior infielder/outfielder AJ Salgado in right field placed runners on second and third with one out.

Barnett responded by striking out the next two hitters to leave both runners stranded.

“It’s executing the game plan,” Barnett said. “Not letting the situation be heightened because of the runners on and just going for it.”

After a Friday appearance where he allowed two runs over 0.1 innings, freshman right-hander Landon Stump relieved Barnett in the 6th and bounced back with 1.2 shutout innings while recording three strikeouts.

Right-handers junior Nate Leibold and graduate student Rashad Ruff closed the door on the Bulldogs, with the Bruins’ pitching staff combining for 12 strikeouts against six hits allowed.

Freshman catcher Cashel Dugger, who caught Sunday’s combined shutout, has reached base in every plate appearance thus far of the nascent season and went 1-for-1 with three walks.

Freshman catcher Cashel Dugger swings at a pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium. (Xiang Li/Daily Bruin)
Freshman catcher Cashel Dugger swings at a pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium. (Xiang Li/Daily Bruin)

After the game, Savage joked Dugger should retire, pointing to his baseball IQ and calmness on the field as responsible for his success this weekend.

“It’s a surreal experience being out here,” Dugger said. “Just trying to be myself and feel pretty comfortable.

The rest of UCLA’s offense began Sunday’s game in the same vein as Saturday’s slugfest.

Junior second baseman Duce Gourson launched a two-run home run in the bottom of the first, his second in as many days. By the end of the third, a single from freshman outfielder Dean West extend the Bruins’ lead to 5-0.

Bruin batters finished the day with seven hits and 13 walks, but also left 14 runners on base – scoring just one run after the third inning.

“We had six runs – probably could’ve had double digits – but that’s baseball,” Savage said. “We were pretty darn good this weekend.”

 

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