Three-Run Seventh Pushes Utes Over No. 15 UCLA, 7-6
SALT LAKE CITY – Keyed by a three-run seventh inning, Utah baseball came away with a 7-6 win on Sunday over No. 15 nationally-ranked UCLA at Smith's Ballpark in the three-game series finale.
Defensive heroics solidified the victory for the Utes in the ninth inning, as UCLA's Kyle Karros hit a one-out line drive that was snared by shortstop Matt Richardson. With a runner on first, Richardson fired across the diamond to first baseman Alex Baeza for the double play to end the ballgame.
For Utah, Sunday's victory snapped a 15-game losing streak against UCLA dating back to 2016. It's the first win over a ranked opponent this season for the Utes, and the first top-15 triumph for the club since the 2019 season.
In recorded program history, Sunday's win was the sixth all-time over the Bruins. Five of the six have come since 2005, and the other was in March 1970. None of the five since 2005 were against a ranked UCLA team, and it is unknown if the Bruins were ranked in the national polls at the time of the 1970 Utah victory.
The Utes are now 18-13-1 on the season and 5-7 in Pac-12 play. It surpasses the team's final win total from the 2021 season.
Chase Anderson and TJ Clarkson each homered for the Utes in the series finale, with Anderson's first inning homer coming as a two-run shot among his two hits and three RBI in the ballgame. Landon Frei was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI for another multi-hit performance. Frei along with leadoff hitter Kai Roberts each scored twice.
On the mound, Dusty Schramm (3-0) was the winner with a 1.2-inning performance, retiring five of the six batters he faced and not allowing a run in that time. Zac McCleve logged a two-inning save, his second of the year, with just a hit allowed and three strikeouts. Starting pitcher Cam Day worked five innings in a no decision, settling down and responding nicely after the Bruins put together a four-run second inning.
Utah struck first again on Sunday, a feat the Utes have accomplished in all three games of the series. Roberts led off the bottom half of the first with a single up the middle, stole second base and scored when Frei put a double to the gap in right center field. That set up Anderson's homer, an opposite field shot that he tucked just inside the right field foul pole for the 3-0 Utes advantage.
The Bruins quickly countered with a four-run second inning to take a 4-3 lead, but Utah stood tall and leveled the score at four in the bottom of the third. With one out, Clarkson stepped up and sent the first pitch to right center field and onto the hill beyond the fence. That 4-4 line remained until the sixth inning when UCLA put up two runs for the 6-4 lead.
Seventh inning stretch marked the start of the breakthrough for the Utes, as a three-spot in the bottom half would be the difference in the game. Sending nine men to bat, Richardson led off with an infield single and moved into scoring position when the lineup turned over and Roberts was hit by a pitch. Richardson came in with the tying run on Frei's base hit to left field. Then Roberts put the team ahead when Anderson laced a single that dropped into left, allowing Roberts to trot home. Three batters later, Baeza drew a bases-loaded walk with Frei on third base, allowing Frei to come home with the eventual game-winning run.
It was a 1-2-3 eighth inning for McCleve on the mound to put the Utes three defensive outs away from the victory. After going behind in the count 2-0, McCleve won the battle with the ninth inning leadoff man with a backwards K after nine pitches for the first out. Ethan Gourson singled through the right side to put the tying run on base, but Richardson's defensive heroics and on-the-money throw to Baeza sealed the double play and brought the Utes out of the dugout for the high-five line.
Utah has now hit 29 home runs as a team this season, the most for the club since the 2011 campaign (39). It therefore stands as the most the team has hit since joining the Pac-12 Conference.
The Utes continue Pac-12 Conference play on Thursday, April 14 as the squad welcomes Arizona to Smith's Ballpark for a three-game series. The Wildcats earned the No. 11 ranking in this past week's D1Baseball poll. All three games in the series will begin at 11 a.m. MT.
Follow Utah baseball on social media (@utahbaseball).