The UCLA baseball team (1-0) survived a rainy Friday and survived the St. John’s Red Storm (0-1) in a 3-2 victory at Jackie Robinson Stadium last night. The two teams will square off again today, weather permitting, at 2 pm UCLA seeks the series win, while St. John’s looks to even the series.
Last night, the Johnnies got on the board first in the fourth inning when lead-off hitter Mike Antico was awarded first base due to catcher’s interference. Antico stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and was singled home. 1-0, St. John’s.
In the sixth inning, Antico reached on a rare Kevin Kendall error, stole second, and scored on a single. 2-0, St. John’s.
It was the definition of small ball, and something UCLA usually does well, but, this time, it was St. John’s manufacturing runs, not UCLA. The Johnnies’ lead, however, would not last long.
In bottom of the sixth, UCLA would claw one back. After Chase Strumpf reached on an infield single and St. John’s retired the next two batters, UCLA Head Coach John Savage turned to Jake Pries as a pinch hitter with two outs. It was the right call and Pries delivered with a triple to center field, scoring Strumpf. With the tying run on third, Coach Savage pinch hit again, this time with freshman Jake Moberg. Unfortunately, in his first collegiate at bat, Moberg grounded out. 2-1, St. John’s.
The Bruins scored the tying and winning runs in the seventh inning, both times due to walks with the bases loaded. Kreidler started it off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Ydens walked and Kendall reached on catcher’s interference, loading the sacks.
Up to the plate with one out came Chase Strumpf. Strumpf was patient at the dish and walked on five pitches, pushing across the tying run to make it 2-2. After Michael Toglia, who did not have a good night, struck out with a chance to break the game wide open, freshman Mike McLain, hitting out of the 5 spot, drew a nine pitch walk, pushing across the go-ahead run. 3-2, UCLA.
McLain fouled off five of those pitches including the first three and was in the hole with an 0-2 count. It was a hell of an at bat for the freshman and showed why he was a MLB first round draft pick last season. UCLA fans are going to fall in love with this kid.
St. John’s would not threaten again.
Zach Pettway was solid, throwing six innings, allowing only three hits and two runs (none earned), and striking out nine. He probably deserved the win, but got the no decision.
UCLA’s bullpen, which has been a concern in past seasons, was lights out. Freshman, Jack Filby, pitched a one-two-three seventh, earning the win. Kyle Mora pitched a one-two-three eighth, striking out two. And closer Holden Powell ended it in the ninth inning, allowing a one-out single, but that runner never advanced past first base. Powell earned the save.
UCLA only had five hits, to St. John’s’ four. It was definitely a pitcher friendly game in a pitcher friendly park.
This afternoon, Jack Ralston will take the hill for UCLA. Ralston is a curious selection, because, as last year’s midweek starter, he had a number of rough outings. He was also shelled in UCLA’s last game of the season at the Minneapolis Regional.
But Coach Savage obviously has seen signs of improvement, which is why Ralston is starting today.
St. John’s counters with Jeff Belge, whose last two performances of 2018 were of the nine strikeout variety. One was a Big East Tournament victory and the other was a tough loss to Clemson in the Clemson Regional to end St. John’s’ season.
But it is a new season. So, who knows what can happen? Right? Hopefully, the weather cooperates today and the teams get this game in.
The is your UCLA baseball vs. St. John’s game two open thread. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.