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Bruins in Paris

UCLA baseball secures Senior Day victory against Stanford in final Pac-12 game

Freshman right-hander Justin Lee pitches at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Lee recorded both his first collegiate at-bat and save Saturday. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


Stanford8
UCLA10

By Kai Dizon

May 19, 2024 12:57 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that UCLA baseball’s third game against Stanford was on Sunday. In fact, it was on Saturday.

This post was updated May 19 at 11:19 p.m.

Justin Lee dug in the Jackie Robinson Stadium’s right-handed batter’s box.

On Senior Day, all eyes within the Bruin dugout and bullpen were glued to the freshman.

The crowd roared as the pitcher by trade fouled a 1-2 fastball out of play.

Lee struck out swinging a few pitches later, but that didn’t stop the Bruins from breaking out the brooms for the first time since the season-opening series in a sweep of the conference-playoff-bound Cardinal.

When Lee slammed the door in the ninth – striking out the side in his first career save – UCLA baseball (19-33, 9-21 Pac-12) secured its 10-8 win over Stanford (20-32, 11-19). Since baseball became a Pac-12 sport in 1967, the Bruins have never finished dead last – and never will – as Saturday’s victory bumped them from the cellar for a 10th-place finish in their final Pac-12 season.

“A lot of mixed emotions,” said coach John Savage. “Frustration, disappointment – if you would have told me (at the beginning of the season) that we’re going to sweep Stanford and not go to the (Pac-12) tournament, I would have said that you’re crazy.”

A senior with little playing time in 2024 emerged for big plays in his final game donning the blue and gold. Outfielder Carson Yates recorded his first RBI of the season with a double in the bottom of the second that scored two in a three-run inning – cutting Stanford’s 6-0 lead in half.

Yates and senior infielder Daylen Reyes continued the Senior Day celebration in the fifth. The latter shot a two-RBI single to right field as the deficit shrunk to one. Two batters later, Yates deposited a two-run blast to the palm trees in left field – his first home run in 13 months – to give the Bruins their first lead of the day.

“It was my last time going out on the field,” Yates said. “Going out and having a day like I did today is really cool. I’m going to look back on it for the rest of my life.”

A half inning later, however, Stanford tied the game.

But the knotted-up contest would soon be broken apart once again.

Third baseman Roch Cholowsky singled, and outfielder Dean West walked each of the first three times Cody Schrier came to the plate. And each time, the junior shortstop failed to get on base like the pair of freshmen before him. But in a sport that so often affords players just three strikes, Schrier was given a fourth opportunity.

Following Cholowsky’s single and West’s walk in the sixth, the pre-season all-conference honoree – who Savage said he anticipates to be taken in the 2024 MLB Draft – delivered.

Schrier’s RBI single proved to be the game winner, giving UCLA a 9-8 advantage.

In the sixth inning, senior outfielder/right-hander JonJon Vaughns’ move to the mound sacrificed UCLA’s designated-hitter spot, forcing the Bruins to choose between substituting a pinch hitter or letting ensuing relievers step in the box. After Lee entered to finish the Cardinal in the top of the seventh, the Bruins chose the latter.

“Coming here (UCLA), I had no idea that I was going to get an at-bat,” Lee said. “Coach just told me to stand up there, but I just wanted to swing.”

The gambit worked out for the Bruins – Lee recorded back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to close out the season.

“Justin Lee – I’m so proud of Justin,” Savage said. “That’s a guy who took advantage of all the opportunity. … He actually touched a ball at the plate – which is a miracle.”

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