Baseball is a funny thing. After I predicted a Bruin win against Texas on Friday behind the pitching of Griffin Canning, UCLA couldn't get the job done, largely because they couldn't get the timely hit, stranding 16 base runners.
Last night, facing the type of pitcher against whom UCLA typically struggles, a hard throwing lefty in Ty Culbreth, I questioned whether UCLA could get the hits it didn't get the night before. Well, UCLA got those hits, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first, a 3-0 lead after the second.
Texas inched back into the game, however, eventually tying it 4-4 in the top of the 9th inning. Although he gave up the tying run in the 9th, UCLA freshman closer Brian Gadsby was also facing the prospect of losing the lead to Texas, as the 'Horns had a runner on third with no outs. Gadsby then got a strike out, a ground out to third base (the runner could not score), and another strike out, setting the stage for the bottom of the 9th. Props to Gadsby for preserving the 4-4 tie.
The real hero of the game, however, was Kort Peterson. Peterson stepped to the dish to lead off the bottom half of the 9th inning. On the second pitch he faced, Peterson launched a bomb over the right field fence, ending the game in dramatic fashion:
Boom! What a nice moment for Peterson, who also hit his first career home run as a Bruin on Friday night,
Although UCLA did not get great pitching, the trio of Jake Bird, Scott Burke, and Gadsby were solid. Bird was especially impressive for his second Saturday start in a row, this time going 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up just four hits and two runs in the no decision. The fact that UCLA only used three pitchers could pay dividends today, and UCLA Head Coach John Savage has a lot to work with if he needs to go to his bullpen.
A few other things are significant about the Bruins' victory last night. The little things that have been killing UCLA were not on display. No errors. Only three walks. UCLA pitchers did not hit a Longhorn batter. Only one wild pitch. Not a lot of free runners for the Longhorns, unlike some of UCLA's recent games. On the offensive side, UCLA made the most out of their eight hits, only stranding three runners. It was a recipe for success.
UCLA raises its record to 7-7. Texas falls to 7-8. The series is on the line today for two teams who are hungry for the series win. It will be an early start at Jackie Robinson Stadium, as first pitch is at noon, PT (plus we set our clocks forward last night, so do not forget to adjust for the time change).
Texas will start sophomore righty Conner Mayes (0-1, 1.93 ERA) today against the Bruins. UCLA will counter with Kyle Molnar (0-1, 6.23 ERA), who continues to be UCLA's Sunday starter. Although his stats are not great, Molnar has improved in each of his starts. He has all the tools to be a very good starting pitcher for this team but, as a freshman, Molnar lacks experience and makes a freshman mistake every now and again. I am predicting good things for Molnar in a UCLA uniform and hope it starts today with a win.
The game is not televised. If you live in the L.A. area and can drag yourself out of bed, get out to JWS to watch what looks to be an exciting rubber match. Otherwise, you can listen to John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm call the game via streaming audio and/or follow via live statistics.
There is no midweek game this week so now is the time for you to get your UCLA Baseball fix before the start of PAC 12 play next Friday when UCLA hosts Washington State.
This is your UCLA v. Texas Game 3 rubber match open thread.