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Freshman slate leads UCLA baseball to victory over Loyola Marymount

Freshman right-hander Justin Lee delivers a pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium. (Darlene Sanzon/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


UCLA4
Loyola Marymount1

By Kai Dizon

April 3, 2024 4:55 p.m.

John Savage said mid-game that he wasn’t thrilled to be playing so many underclassmen.

“It’s not very fun, to say the least,” the Bruins’ coach told the ESPN+ broadcast crew. “College baseball is really old right now. … there’s a lot of good players who’re still hanging around college – 22, 23, 24-year olds – It’s just hard running out 18-year olds.”

However, by the night’s end, it would be the freshman class – who garnered Baseball America’s No. 1 2023 recruiting class just months prior – who would win the game for UCLA baseball (11-15, 4-8 Pac-12) as it defeated Loyola Marymount (12-17, 1-5 WCC) by a score of 4-1 in Westchester.

“The freshmen have to go through a progression,” Savage said after the game. “To learn, to experience success to experience failure. At the end of the day, they turn out to be pretty good, but it just takes time.”

On two days rest, freshman right-hander Luke Rodriguez made his third-career start after appearing in relief over the weekend against Arizona. He twirled 2.1 scoreless innings while striking out four – a rebound after not making it out of the second inning Sunday.

Savage turned the ball over to freshman Justin Lee, who entered the game with an ERA of 14. The right-hander had a career-best performance – tossing 3.1 innings, allowing a run and striking out five – earning him his first career win.

“In the bullpen, I didn’t really have my best stuff,” Lee said. “I’m just working every day with coach Savage and trusting him. He’s leading me in the right direction and I’m just staying at it.”

Following Lee was yet another freshman right-hander – who could provide a jolt to a waning pitching staff.

Making his collegiate debut, Cal Randall allowed just one hit while striking out three in 1.2 innings of work. Last year, Perfect Game named Randall the 22nd-best right-hander in the class of 2023.

“Cal (has an) electric fastball – 92 to 94 (miles per hour) with a good curveball,” Savage said. “Overall, it’s a big shot in the arm for us in terms of our bullpen depth.”

After back-to-back games where he was saddled with a walk-off loss, graduate student transfer Rashad Ruff delivered 1.2 perfect innings to earn his sixth save of the season.

Likewise, the Bruins’ offense was also dominated by freshmen. First baseman Mulivai Levu and third baseman Roch Cholowsky combined for half of UCLA’s eight hits and all three of the team’s RBIs.

After recording their first win on the road, UCLA will return to Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday – where the Bruins are 10-4 – to face Oregon.

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