LOS ANGELES — The No. 6-ranked UCLA baseball team picked up a big non-conference win at home on Friday night, defeating defending national champion and No. 2 Vanderbilt 3-2 in front of a sold out crowd of 2,215.
The top-10 matchup lived up to its billing, with the two teams tied or separated by one run for essentially the entire game. The contest was the opening game of the Southern California College Baseball Classic, co-hosted by UCLA and USC and also featuring TCU.
UCLA (12-1) built up a decisive 3-0 lead thanks to a single run in the third followed by a two-spot in the fourth. Vandy (11-4) responded with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth, but Bruins starter Zach Pettway and the UCLA bullpen combined to keep the Commodores off the board the rest of the way.
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Redshirt freshman JT Schwartz opened the game's scoring, lining a 1-0 offering from Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker into the left-center field gap to score senior left fielder Kyle Cuellar from first base. Cuellar had reached earlier in the frame on a one-out walk.
Iffy command proved decisive for Rocker in the fourth, as he loaded the bases with nobody out on two walks and a hit-by-pitch before being pulled from the game.
Junior center fielder Garrett Mitchell made the Commodores pay for those free runners, as his fly ball to left field brought in one on a sac fly before an errant throw from the VU left fielder plated another run. On that play, Cooper Davis made the catch and then stepped towards home but threw towards third. Vandy shortstop Carter Young — who was covering the third base bag — took his eye off the play after Davis stepped towards home and the ensuing throw sailed into the Bruin dugout.
Vanderbilt scored both its runs on a fifth-inning double from Parker Noland. Only one of those runs was earned against Pettway after leadoff hitter Dominic Keegan reached on an error.
The Commodores threatened in the late innings, but the UCLA bullpen was up to the task each time.
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Junior Michael Townsend put up a zero in the seventh, getting a little bit of help on a line double play. Kyle Mora got the first two outs of the eighth before making way for Holden Powell after allowing a two-out bloop single. Powell stranded a runner in scoring position to get UCLA out of the eighth, then worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to keep VU off the board and earn his third save of the year.
Pettway earned the win on the night to move to 3-0 on the year. He gave up just three hits and walked nobody – improving his season strikeout-to-walk ratio to 29-1. The two-time-defending Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week started his outing by retiring 12 consecutive batters.
Rocker took the loss for Vandy, dropping to 2-1. He gave up just two hits but walked four and hit another two batters in three-plus innings. Right-hander Sam Hliboki faced one over the minimum in five innings of relief.
UCLA continues the Southern California College Baseball Classic on Saturday afternoon with a 2:00 p.m. contest against TCU at Jackie Robinson Stadium.