UCLA’s baseball team has spent nine consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America. That never would have happened without the major contributions of unsung junior pitcher Jack Ralston, who is 9-0 with a 2.34 ERA.
Last season, the Hart High graduate was 1-4 with a 6.44 ERA. Who could have predicted that he would emerge as a standout on a team loaded with top pitchers?
Coach John Savage certainly believed in his work ethic. Every year since he arrived in 2015, the 6-foot-6 Ralston has been working toward this season, listening, learning and improving.
“He’s epitome of a program guy,” Savage said. “He has worked his way up the old-fashion way. He has worked as hard as anyone in our program. He has very observant skills, is a very good listener and high, high awareness.”
His development couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. UCLA’s No. 1 pitcher, Ryan Garcia, missed time early in the season because of an injury. His successor, Zach Pettway, went down with an injury last month and might not be available for the playoffs.
Ralston has been UCLA’s most consistent pitcher. In the role as Saturday starter, he has 78 strikeouts in 77 innings.
His coach in high school, Jim Ozella, said it was difficult to get college programs to recruit him because his velocity was not overwhelming and he was a bit uncoordinated. By the end of his senior year, Ralston helped Hart reach the Southern Section Division 1 final.
“He had improved every year with us,” Ozella said. “I thought he had an high upside. A lot didn’t see that. It was his act of perseverance and act of belief. He’s an example of one who believed in himself, the system, coach Savage and made it happen.”
UCLA is 41-8 and 19-5 in the Pac-12 with six conference games games remaining. The Bruins are tied for first place with Oregon State and Stanford.
Among the other key contributors, freshman catcher Noah Cardenas (Alemany grad) leads UCLA in hitting with a .396 batting average. Sophomore outfielder Garrett Mitchell (Orange Lutheran) has 72 hits, a .362 batting average and 15 stolen bases. Sophomore closer Holden Powell has 14 saves.