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UCLA Edges Stanford to Even Series

Apr 15, 2022
Max Rajcic (photo: Jesus Ramirez)

LOS ANGELES – No. 12 UCLA appeared on the ESPN family of networks for the first time this season on Friday night, and the Bruins delivered a performance worthy of prime time as they edged No. 11 Stanford 5-4 to even up the series.

The Bruins (24-10, 9-5 Pac-12) never trailed in the contest, going ahead in the second on a two-run Michael Curialle home run and doubling the lead with a two-run Jake Palmer single in the fourth.

Stanford (19-11, 10-7) chipped away at the lead, eventually tying the game at 4-4 in the eighth to set up a nail-biting finish. The Bruins ultimately broke through with a go-ahead run in the eighth and Ethan Flanagan stood tall to lock down the win.

The victory represented another grind-it-out win for UCLA in a close game, as the Bruins improved to 10-2 this year in one-run games. Eight of UCLA's last 10 games have been decided by a single run.

Sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic set the tone for UCLA, setting career highs in strikeouts (10) and innings (7.0) while limiting the Cardinal to three earned runs.

The Fullerton native was particularly strong in the early innings, striking out the side in order in the third and picking up multiple Ks three times through his first five frames. Critically, he didn't allow a single walk in his entire outing.

Junior catcher Darius Perry was the late-inning hero for the Bruins, working the count full before finding a hole in the infield for a go-ahead RBI single. The knock scored Curialle, who had led off the frame with a solid base hit back up the middle before moving into scoring position on an errant pickoff throw.

The top of the ninth featured some drama as well, as Stanford got the game-tying and go-ahead runners on base with a single and a walk.

That was as close as the Cardinal would get however, as Flanagan bounced back to get the next two batters out to end the game. His finest work came against two-hitter Carter Graham, who swung through a pair of change-ups en route to a strikeout. The contest ended when three-hitter Brett Barrera tapped a grounder in front of the plate on a check swing, as Perry had plenty of time to throw over to first for the final out.

Flanagan received the win for UCLA, improving to 3-0 on the year. He ended his outing with a line of three hits and no runs allowed with one walk and three strikeouts in two innings.

Curialle (2-4, two runs, two RBIs) led the Bruins on offense, and has now homered in consecutive appearances for the first time in his career. Freshman shortstop Cody Schrier doubled twice and reached base four times as part of a 3-4 performance.

Stanford was led on offense by Braden Montgomery and Drew Bowser, who each hit home runs to lead the comeback charge. Barrera and catcher Kody Huff both had three-hit nights.

Friday's contest was televised by ESPN2 as part of the network's celebration of the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking MLB's color barrier. Guests on the broadcast included Martin Jarmond, UCLA's Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics, and UCLA Baseball alumnus Chase Utley, who was a six-time All-Star during a 16-year MLB career with the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers.  

The Bruins and Cardinal will decide the series with a Saturday rubber match. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. PT, and the showdown will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.