The UCLA baseball team (2-0) earned the series win yesterday afternoon versus UC Riverside with a 9-1 victory that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate, as the Bruins took advantage of the Highlanders’ self-inflicted wounds in the bottom of the eighth inning.
UCR pitchers allowed three bases-on-balls and three hit-by-pitches which, along with two UCLA singles and a sacrifice fly, allowed the Bruins to plate five runs and bat around in the eighth inning.
Today, the teams will square off in the series finale this afternoon with the Bruins looking to break out the brooms while UC Riverside looking to salvage a win to avoid the sweep. First pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium is a 1 pm PT.
Yesterday, UCLA scored all of the runs that they would need in the bottom of the first inning before Riverside even recorded an out. Lead off hitter Garrett Mitchell was hit by a pitch and stole second. Freshman second baseman Michael Curialle came to the plate and doubled to right center field, scoring Mitchell. Sophomore shortstop Matt McLain followed with a two-run home run, giving UCLA the 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, UCLA’s starter, sophomore Nick Nastrini, retired six of the first seven Highlanders that he faced but got in trouble by an act that always seems to bite a pitcher in the rear-end: the lead-off walk. Nastrini walked the first batter he faced in the third inning, UCR’s Damien Sanchez, after a 3-2 count. Riverside’s subsequent single and a sacrifice fly cut UCLA’s lead to 3-1, but the Bruins would concede no more runs.
Instead, they would add to their lead in the bottom of the fifth when an RBI single by UCLA catcher Noah Cardenas scored McLain, extending the lead to 4-1.
And, then, the Bruins scored five more in the eighth inning, greatly aided by Highlander pitching unable to find the zone, walking three and hitting three UCLA batters. 9-1 would end up being the final tally with Riverside failing to threaten in the top of the ninth.
Offensively, McLain was a highlight for the Bruins, going 3-5 with four RBI and two runs scored.
Nastrini pitched a solid five innings, allowing only one run on two hits. He also struck out five. The UCLA bullpen was again excellent, even though the Bruins did not need closer Holden Powell. Three UCLA pitchers, instead, combined for no runs on one hit in four innings.
The Highlanders have not announced their starting pitcher today, although a sneaking suspicion tells me it will be sophomore Jake Lachemann. He’s a hard-throwing big kid, who’s listed at 6’7” tall, who happens to be the grandson of former pitching coach and manager for the California/Anaheim Angels, Marcel Lachemann.
UCLA will throw sophomore right-hander Jessie Bergin, who had a fine season in 2019 as the typical Sunday starter, a role Bergin will hopefully find familiar this afternoon. Bergin went 5-0 last season, striking out 76 batters in 67 innings. His ERA needs to improve a bit from the 2019 mark of 4.43.
Will the Bruins break out the brooms today and sweep the Highlanders back to the Inland Empire? Follow along and see. Fire away with your thoughts in the comment section.