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‘We’ve got to be able to turn this around’: UCLA baseball swept by Arizona State

Freshman infielder Roch Cholowsky runs toward first base after a batted ball. (Jordan Guzman/Daily Bruin)

By Kai Dizon

April 22, 2024 2:16 p.m.

When JonJon Vaughns sent a rocket toward deep center in the bottom of the eighth, the tides could have turned for the UCLA faithful.

But Arizona State center fielder Isaiah Jackson scaled the wall behind him, robbed the senior outfielder’s would-be homer and stole the show.

As Jackson came back down, ball in glove, everyone in the ballpark was stuck looking at jersey No. 24 in center – the reverse of Jackie Robinson’s famed 42 on a day named for the former Bruin and MLB trailblazer.

UCLA baseball (13-24, 6-15 Pac-12) dropped the series finale against Arizona State (20-21, 10-11) by a score of 13-1, securing a sweep for the Sun Devils. The Bruins have now lost five consecutive games, been swept four times – three times in conference play – and sit all alone in the Pac-12 cellar.

“We’ve got to be able to turn this around,” said coach John Savage. “We haven’t been in this position probably a long, long, long, long, long, long time.”

Despite scoring in the second inning, the Bruins’ first and only run would come too late. Freshman Roch Cholowsky tattooed an RBI double off the right field wall, but the Sun Devils remained in front after a two-run home run in the top of the first.

Coming off a five-inning, one-run performance against Washington last week, freshman right-hander Landon Stump pitched just 3.2 innings while giving up four Sunday.

In a seven-run fifth inning, Arizona State outfielder Kien Vu and designated hitter Jacob Tobias each hit two-run blasts – including Tobias’ second of the game – off freshman right-hander Justin Lee.

After appearing in just six of the Bruins’ first 25 games, Lee has pitched in nine of the last 13 amid injuries to UCLA’s pitching staff, giving up runs in four of them.

“I love J-Lee,” Savage said. “He’s made major strides. He’s being ran out there too much.”

Tobias and Vu proved to be UCLA’s kryptonite all series. The duo combined to go 12-for-24 with five home runs and 14 RBIs.

Savage said the Bruins’ lack of pitching depth forced him to call in closer Rashad Ruff early.

The graduate student right-hander entered in mop-up duty to close out the fifth and pitched the next three innings.

UCLA asked its NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List honoree for 42 pitches in a game it would lose by 12. And the Coppin State transfer delivered – tossing 3.2 shutout frames where he allowed just one hit and struck out three.

But the game had been long decided.

When Arizona State followed its home run robbery with a fourth long ball – a ninth inning, pinch-hit two-run no-doubter from Eamonn Lance off freshman right-hander Matthew Gobel – freshman outfielder Phoenix Call could only watch the ball hit off the palm trees in left field.

“We need to buy in more to the program and the foundation that it has,” Cholowsky said. “We came to something that was set up really nice for us. Buying into the winning culture is something that we could do better.”

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