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‘We just haven’t played winning baseball’: UCLA drops final game of Oregon series

Freshman right-hander Justin Lee pitches at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Lee has become a middle-relief option in recent games after pitching injuries ravaged the Bruins’ pitching staff. (Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)

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By Joseph Crosby

April 7, 2024 7:09 p.m.

Three Daily Doubles show up in any given episode of “Jeopardy!”

And in the third inning Sunday, the Ducks looked as if they were contestants on the long-running game show themselves – widening the score behind a trio of timely two-baggers.

With three doubles – bookended by home runs – in the span of six batters, Oregon (22-8, 8-4 Pac-12) claimed a five-run lead in the third over UCLA baseball (12-17, 5-10) to eventually take the series finale 6-3 at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Freshman right-hander Landon Stump worked around trouble early – including three Ducks on the pond in the second – before giving up all five of his allowed runs in the third.

“It’s a tough one,” said coach John Savage. “Because to look at the scoreboard and say, ‘You know what, we’re going to give up one run over the next six innings,’ that’s a winnable game.”

Oregon left fielder Jacob Walsh – who entered Sunday fourth in the Pac-12 in home runs – cranked his 10th long ball of the season to open the day’s scoring.

Walsh’s homer kicked off the first of three consecutive extra-base hits for the Ducks. Stump recovered with a strikeout to end the stretch, but Oregon catcher Chase Meggers subsequently notched the third double of the inning before his teammate, shortstop Maddox Molony, capped off the rally with a two-run blast of his own.

“We’re asking a lot of young guys to do some really hard things,” Savage said. “I thought he (Stump) pitched pretty well the first couple innings, and then he got himself in trouble, made a couple of mistakes they made him pay for.”

Stump returned for the fourth inning before getting the hook after back-to-back one-out walks. He was replaced by freshman right-hander Justin Lee, who ended the inning without any damage and would go on to set down his first nine batters faced.

The Bruins wouldn’t go gently into that good afternoon, though.

Junior designated hitter Jack Holman – UCLA’s 2023 leader in home runs – hit his second of the season in the bottom of the fourth. An inning later, the Bruins added two more runs on an RBI single and bases-loaded hit by pitch, but Holman stranded three to end the frame.

Oregon struck back for one in the seventh off Lee – his only run of the day – before senior right-hander Caedon Kottinger induced a double play to escape a bases-loaded jam in his second appearance of the series.

“That moment is huge,” Lee said. “Before the game, Caedon talked to us about just inheriting runners and leaving them there. … I was just really fired up.”

With the Ducks’ lead limited to three, the Bruins had the tying run at the plate in both the seventh and eighth but came up empty both times before UCLA’s four, five and six hitters were set down in order to end the game.

“I think most of us were just anxious, a little, to get on base,” said freshman infielder Mulivai Levu, who made the final out. “I went after the first pitch, and it’s unfortunate.”

Sunday’s loss marked the halfway point of Pac-12 play, where UCLA sits tied with California for second-to-last in the conference.

“We just haven’t played winning baseball, day in and day out,” Savage said. “That’s the bottom line.”

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Joseph Crosby | Sports editor
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
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