UCLA Takes Slugfest Over Pepperdine, 16-8
LOS ANGELES – The No. 8-ranked UCLA baseball team doubled up on Pepperdine on Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, 16-8, to notch a win in the opening game of the 2021 College Baseball Classic.
The Bruins (6-3) and Waves (1-7) were close on the scoreboard for most of the night, with UCLA nursing a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. The Bruins would go on to put the game away with a seven-run rally in the eighth, sending 13 batters to the plate during the frame.
UCLA received offensive contributions up and down the lineup over the course of the game, helping the team score 14+ runs in back-to-back games for the first time since Apr. 20 and Apr. 21, 2018.
The 3-4-5 spots in the order – junior shortstop Matt McLain, sophomore DH Josh Hahn, and sophomore right fielder Michael Curialle – combined to go 7-12 with five extra-base hits, six RBIs, and nine runs scored.
Curialle in particular had a banner day, going 3-4 with three doubles and a career-high four RBIs. Junior catcher Noah Cardenas also had a strong performance with the bat, going 2-3 with a triple, three RBIs and three runs scored.
The Bruins were able to keep the Waves at bay thanks in part to a pair of strong relief performances from sophomore Jared Karros and junior Sean Mullen.
Entering the game to start the third inning with UCLA down 3-2, Karros went on to provide five innings of one-run, three-hit ball. Thanks to that effort, the Bruins – who scored in each of their final five offensive innings – would go ahead for good in the fifth.
Karros did his best Houdini act in the sixth inning; after allowing a leadoff triple that put the game-tying run on third base for Pepperdine, Karros bounced back to induce three straight swinging strikeouts to end the inning without any damage.
The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native was rewarded with the win for his performance, moving his season record to 1-1.
"Karros gave us exactly what we needed," said UCLA head coach John Savage. "That runner on third, striking out three guys in that situation, that was huge. He just really responded. He's been our Friday guy the last two weeks, so he knows what the competition is on Friday night and he knows the feeling of being out there."
Pepperdine would score four runs in the top of the eighth to make it a one-run game again, but Mullen got the Bruins out of it with a fireman-like performance.
Entering the inning after five of six batters had reached base, with the tying run on first base and one out, Mullen rolled up a weak ground ball for the second out and then ended the frame by getting Brian Cook to swing through a breaking ball off the plate.
Mullen polished off the contest with a drama-free top of the ninth to earn his first career save.
Curialle and junior second baseman Mikey Perez had the key hits of the pull-away eighth-inning rally, scoring two runs apiece with RBI doubles. That frame was aided in part by eight free runners for UCLA – five walks and three hits by pitch.
UCLA continues the weekend with a Saturday afternoon rematch with Cal State Fullerton, whom the Bruins defeated 14-1 on Tuesday night. First pitch from Jackie Robinson Stadium is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. PT.