UCLA Edges Utah, 4-3, to Clinch Series
SALT LAKE CITY – No. 15 UCLA clinched a series win over Utah after recording a 4-3 victory on Saturday afternoon at Smith's Ballpark.
UCLA (22-8, 8-3 Pac-12) has now won eight consecutive games, the program's longest winning streak since 2020. In each of the Bruins' last six games, they've trailed at one point but came back to record a one-run win. With the loss, the Utes dropped to 17-13-1, 4-7.
Saturday's contest was full of drama and high-leverage moments. There wasn't a single 1-2-3 half-inning all afternoon, and both teams had potential rallies broken up by clutch pitching in the late stages of the contest.
Nursing a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, UCLA looked like it might relinquish the lead after Utah got the first two runners of the frame on with a single and a walk. However, UCLA freshman left-hander Ethan Flanagan buckled down from there, getting the next three batters in order to seal the victory.
The first out came voluntarily from the Utes, who sacrificed both runners into scoring position for cleanup hitter TJ Clarkson. In the biggest at-bat of the game to that point, Flanagan won a five-pitch battle against Clarkson, getting a check-swing strikeout for the second out of the frame. Alex Baeza then skied a fly ball to Carson Yates in right-center field for the final out.
UCLA got all the offense it would need with back-to-back two-run innings starting in the fourth.
Trailing 1-0 at point, sophomore DH Daylen Reyes put UCLA ahead for good with a two-run home run to left field in the fourth. It was the first-career roundtripper for Reyes.
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The Bruins rallied for two more in their next ups, with Carson Yates bringing both in on a bases-loaded base hit into the left-center field gap. UCLA had previously juiced the bags with two singles a walk from Ethan Gourson, who fell behind in the count 1-2 but eventually earned an eight-pitch free pass.
UCLA had to pitch out of the stretch for large portions of the contest but came up big in leverage situations, holding the Utes to 1-13 batting with runners in scoring position.
Bruin starter Max Rajcic opened up the strong collective pitching performance with six innings of two-run ball. The Fullerton native struck out a career-high eight batters in the contest, and matched his career-long in innings for the second consecutive weekend.
He struck out multiple batters in three consecutive frames starting in the third, and picked off a runner at first base to face the minimum in the bottom of the first.
Prior to his ninth-inning heroics, Flanagan danced out of danger in the eighth as well. Trailing by a pair at that point, the Utes got the tying run into scoring position after a walk and double to open the frame. The hosts did get one run in on an RBI groundout, but Flanagan came up with back-to-back strikeouts to close the frame and strand the runner at second.
Freshman shortstop Cody Schrier (2-5) and graduate first baseman Jake Palmer (2-4, walk) led the Bruins with two hits apiece. Palmer has now reached base in his last 12 games.
UCLA and Utah finish off the weekend set with a 12:00 p.m. PT finale on Sunday.