It was time to see the resolve of a UCLA baseball team that had been ranked No. 1 for 11 consecutive weeks but faced elimination on Sunday afternoon from the NCAA playoffs. The Bruins responded with four home runs and strong pitching from the bullpen to defeat Baylor 11-6 in an elimination game of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
UCLA (49-9) will get a rematch against Loyola Marymount at 6 p.m. on Sunday in trying to force a final game on Monday. The Lions need only one win to advance to a super regional.
UCLA coach John Savage said it’s an “all-hands-on-deck” mentality for the pitching staff. He pulled starter Jesse Bergin in the second inning and relied on the bullpen to come through after Baylor scored three runs in the second. Felix Rubi allowed one hit in three innings of relief.
“Rubi was the unsung hero,” Savage said.
Rubi’s ability to settle the ship enabled UCLA’s hitters to start whacking pitches out of the ballpark. Jake Pries hit a two-run home run. Ryan Kreidler, 0 for 10 in the playoffs, and Michael Toglia also hit two-run home runs. Freshman Noah Cardenas had a solo home run, giving him six hits in the playoffs and raising his season average to .420.
“I felt like we needed to keep putting up runs,” Savage said. “It wasn’t a safe game.”
Michael Townsend, Nate Hadley, Kyle Mora and Holden Powell followed out of the bullpen. The Bruins turned three double plays.
Now comes the challenge of finding enough pitchers to take on a well-rested Loyola Marymount staff.