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UCLA baseball seeks 1st road Pac-12 series win in battle against Washington

UCLA baseball players lean on the dugout. (Jessica Allen/Daily Bruin)

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By Noah Massey

April 11, 2024 12:07 p.m.

This post was updated April 11 at 9:22 p.m. 

A road victory was elusive for more than five weeks.

While Loyola Marymount is less than ten miles from Westwood, the Bruins’ win over the Lions broke their seasonlong road losing streak last Tuesday.

But since, the victory has been overshadowed by recent losses to Oregon and Pepperdine, as UCLA baseball (12-18, 5-10 Pac-12) has now dropped six of its last eight contests. Now, Washington (9-16-1, 3-9 Pac-12) – the only conference team below UCLA itself – is next on the docket. The future Big Ten rivals will battle for the Pac-12 cellar from Friday to Sunday in Seattle.

Coach John Savage outlined what the Bruins need to do to play better.

“Not striking out,” Savage said. “Not making errors, throwing strikes, coming up with key hits, having tough at-bats, playing catch.”

Thirty games into its campaign, UCLA is near the bottom of the Pac-12 in many respects. The Bruins are tied for second-to-last in batter strikeouts, lead the league in errors, have the second-lowest batting average and sit in the bottom half of the league in surrendered walks.

“You got to have winning executions,” Savage said. “At times we get it, and other times, we’re very young at some spots.”

The Bruins have turned to a much younger group this season, allocating 38% of at-bats and 32% of innings pitched to freshmen when compared to only 8% of at-bats and 24% of innings last season.

In their 10-2 loss to Pepperdine on Tuesday, the Bruins utilized 11 freshmen, including five first-year pitchers.

Both groups struggled collectively, with the batters going 1-for-11 on the night and the pitchers allowing six runs in their six innings of work. Freshmen right-hander Luke Rodriguez and left-hander Will Goldberg emerged as the brightest outings of the day, amassing six combined strikeouts and only one earned run over four innings of work.

Goldberg and fellow freshman left-hander Kaena Kiakona made their first appearances of the season, while senior outfielder JonJon Vaughns entered for his third multi-inning appearance, and freshman right-hander Matthew Gobel appeared for the first time since mid-March, filling in the gaps of a thin bullpen.

“We got to get a few guys back on the mound,” Savage said. “We need a little more depth.”

The Huskies, the current Pac-12 bottom-dwellers, emerge as a prime candidate for the Bruins to improve on their 1-10 away record after having endured four consecutive losses – including a sweep by USC, which UCLA defeated in the series earlier this season.

“Hopefully we can turn it around in conference,” Goldberg said. “I think that’s what everybody is looking for.”

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