Bruins Claim Walk-Off Win in UCR Finale, 2-1
LOS ANGELES – The No. 21-ranked UCLA baseball team completed a sweep of UC Riverside on Sunday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Stadium, as freshman center fielder Malakhi Knight scored on a Tommy Beres squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth to finish off a 2-1 walk-off win against the Highlanders.
It was the Bruins' (5-3) second walk-off victory in the last week, as UCLA also had a final at-bat victory in last Sunday's series finale against CSUN, which was ended by an Ethan Gourson home run.
Knight started the decisive rally by pulling a grounder through the left side for a leadoff single in the ninth. Even with UCR (0-7) keeping a close eye on him, Knight was able to get into scoring position by stealing second with JonJon Vaughns at the plate. After a walk to Vaughns, both moved up a base after UCR pitcher Caleb Turner balked.
That set up a two-RISP, no-out situation for Beres. UCLA's redshirt sophomore catcher would go on to lay a bunt down the first-base line which was fielded by UCR's Joey Nicolai, but his toss home was a tad high, allowing Knight to slide in under the tag for the game-winning run.
🧹 WALK-OFF FINAL: UCLA 2, UC Riverside 1 🧹
— UCLA Baseball (@UCLABaseball) February 28, 2022
UCLA pitchers kept the Highlanders off the board for the first eight innings of the game, but the visitors broke up the shutout in the top of the ninth, which set up the walk-off rally in the ninth.
The Bruins had previously opened the scoring in the sixth inning on a hustle baserunning play from junior third baseman Michael Curialle. On first base after walking, Curialle took off trying to steal second base when junior DH Josh Hahn lined a fastball into right field for a single. From there, UCR right fielder Dylan Orick mishandled the ball while trying to keep an eye on Curialle, allowing him to easily take the extra base and score from third.
The two-run output stood up for UCLA thanks to a standout collective pitching effort by the Bruins, led by starter Kelly Austin.
A week after striking out eight over six scoreless innings against CSUN in his Division I debut, the redshirt sophomore right-hander tossed six more shutout frames on Sunday against the Highlanders, limiting them to just two hits.
The first batter of the game – Jacob Shanks – doubled off Austin, but from there he allowed just one single over the remainder of his outing.
The Orange Coast College transfer got a little help from his defense, including a highlight-reel catch from Kenny Oyama in the left-field corner to close out the top of the fourth.
Austin made way for Jake Saum at the start of the seventh inning, and the junior southpaw responded by striking out the side. Freshman righty Luke Jewett followed with a 1-2-3 eighth, and freshman right-hander Alonzo Tredwell picked up his first collegiate win after allowing a tough-luck run in the top of the ninth.
The Bruins had five hits as a team in the contest, two of them coming off the bat of Hahn. Vaughns (three walks) and Curialle (1-2, two walks) each reached base three times.
UCLA wraps up a season-opening nine-game homestand on Tuesday by hosting Big West-member Long Beach State. The game, scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. first pitch, will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.