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No. 22 UCLA Downs UCSB in Road Battle, 5-2

May 15, 2021
Sean Mullen (photo: Scott Chandler)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 22 UCLA evened up its series against UC Santa Barbara with a 5-2 victory on Saturday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Junior right-hander Sean Mullen led the way for the Bruins (29-16) with six innings of three-hit, one-run ball, earning his ninth win of the season to extend his Pac-12 lead.

UCLA and UCSB (31-16) exchanged solo home runs early on, which represented the only offense for either team through the first half of the game. The Bruins would go on to break through with a pair of runs in the seventh to take the lead for good.

Freshman third baseman Kyle Karros – who crushed a solo home run over the left field scoreboard in the second inning to open the scoring for the Bruins – sparked the seventh-inning rally by working a seven-pitch leadoff walk that chased UCSB starter Rodney Boone from the game.

After UCSB summoned lefty reliever Carter Benbrook, the Bruins sacrificed Karros into scoring position, and that move paid off immediately as the next batter, Michael Curialle, pulled a base hit into left that kicked off the glove of UCSB left fielder Broc Mortensen to bring in Karros from second.

Later on during the same inning, freshman center fielder JonJon Vaughns dropped a soft liner into center to bring in Curialle and plate another run to make it 3-1.  

The Gauchos would answer in the bottom half of the seventh, with Kyle Johnson hitting a solo homer to right before a pair of subsequent walks put the game-tying run in scoring position.  

UCLA head coach John Savage made the move to Max Rajcic at that point, and the freshman closer ended the seventh-inning threat with by getting a routine grounder to first.

Rajcic followed up with 1-2-3 frames in the eighth and ninth, ultimately retiring every batter he faced during the career-long seven-out save opportunity. The outing brought him his sixth save of the campaign.  

The Bruins picked up a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth, as Kevin Kendall finished off an outstanding eight-pitch at-bat with an opposite field single to left that easily scored Curialle from second. Kendall would came around moments later after Pat Caulfield stroked a double off the left-field wall.

UCLA and UCSB conclude the series tomorrow, returning to Jackie Robinson Stadium for Sunday's rubber match. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.