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Seized opportunities fuel UCLA baseball’s series victory against Washington State

Freshman infielder hustles toward third base against Washington State. Martin recorded a career-high five RBIs in the Bruins’ series-winning victory Sunday. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

By Noah Massey

March 19, 2024 4:37 p.m.

Baseball is a timely game.

The difference between a win and a loss can be just a few hits that come with runners on base.

A lack of timeliness has plagued UCLA lately, as it carried a .118 batting average with runners in scoring position during the seven-game skid that led up to the weekend’s series.

But Sunday proved to be a glimpse at what can happen when hits come in the right moments.

Behind a pair of timely hits, UCLA baseball (7-11, 2-4 Pac-12) defeated Washington State (10-8, 2-4) by a score of 9-4 in Sunday’s rubber match. With the win, the Bruins secured a series victory – their first since the sweep of Gonzaga that began the season.

“It was critical that we got this series done,” said coach John Savage. “Especially after winning on Friday night and playing so poorly yesterday (Saturday). It was really a good bounce back.”

The Bruins started hot, with all four of their first-inning runs crossing the plate before the first out. The first six Bruins combined for two walks, three singles and a hit batter, capping off the rally with a single by junior center fielder Malakhi Knight that scored the final two runs.

In the first inning alone, the Bruins managed more hits with runners in scoring position than they had in their previous three games combined.

“You see us with what we’ve done with the bases loaded, and we’ve had some frustration,” Savage said. “It’s been a frustrating year.”

Washington State tied the game at four after scoring in both the third and fourth innings.

Freshman right-hander Landon Stump experienced some uncharacteristic control issues, as he tossed five walks through 3.2 innings, tying his season total in one outing.

Junior right-hander Chris Aldrich made his first relief appearance of the year following Stump, striking out three in 2.1 scoreless frames.

“I mean, honestly, it was just good to get back out there and help the team win,” Aldrich said. “Big series win, we needed that today.”

Savage added that Aldrich will be a helpful addition to the UCLA bullpen.

“We need him, he’s a veteran guy,” Savage said. “We really thought we were going to have him at the beginning of the year, and, unfortunately, he had a little bit of a setback. But now, with him being back, it really helps our bullpen.”

In the bottom of the fourth, UCLA regained its lead after a two-out bloop single by freshman Roman Martin dropped between three outfielders and scored two.

Martin, who notched four hits and five RBIs throughout the game, said he has been trying to take advantage of every opportunity he can.

“Taking advantage of my opportunities is the biggest thing,” Martin said. “Especially knowing I wasn’t going to get too many in the beginning.”

He followed up his go-ahead single with a base-clearing double in the eighth inning to extend his team’s lead to five.

Martin only had five at-bats through the first eight games of the season, but he has since amassed seven hits and 10 RBIs in his last three games played – including his first collegiate home run.

Right-handers sophomore Cody Delvecchio and graduate student Rashad Ruff followed Aldrich to close out the game, as the trio combined for 5.1 scoreless innings while allowing just five baserunners.

“Baseball is a game of bouncing back, it’s a game of humility,” Savage said. “I thought we did a good job of bouncing back and doing what we needed to do.”

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Noah Massey
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