LOS ANGELES — Veterans and newcomers, pure offense and capitalizing on opportunities, pitching, hitting and defense — all of it came together Friday night for San Francisco baseball, powering the Dons to a 6-2 series-opening win over No. 2 UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
USF's veteran arms of Landen Bourassa (1-0) and Alex Pham held the Bruins (0-1) to just one run on four hits in eight combined innings between them. Bourassa earned his second consecutive winning decision — following his five-inning win at California on March 6, 2020, his last appearance before the 2020 season was cut short. Friday's win was a continuation of Bourassa's comeback story, after he missed all of 2019 due to injury, then returned slowly in 2020 only to have the season cut short.
"I have a lot of confidence in Landen," said San Francisco head coach Nino Giarratano. "I felt like he had a really good chance to beat [UCLA] if we could play defense and execute. When he started out tonight, he commanded the fastball, then threw the slider when he needed to. I felt like he was a little unlucky giving up the run to go down early, but the guys answered for him. He pitched fabulous for us tonight. He's capable of giving us quality starts."
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Pham entered in relief in a tough spot during the sixth inning. Already with two runners in scoring position and no outs, he allowed one inherited runner to score on a soft line drive just over the leaping glove of Luke Keaschall at second base. After a walk loaded the bases, Pham proceeded to get a one-pitch infield fly, a strikeout and a groundout to strand the bases loaded and preserve the Dons' lead at 3-2. He would escape another bases-loaded jam in the eighth after a single and two walks, striking out UCLA's Kevin Kendall on an elevated fastball after an eight-pitch battle, preserving the Dons' two-run lead at the time.
"(Pham) wasn't as sharp tonight as he normally has been, but you never have to worry about his competitiveness," said Giarratano. "I really like giving him those opportunities in those situations. He's a battler, man."
USF's (1-0) offense was a mix of young and old. Returning freshman Harris Williams tripled home the Dons' first run in the fourth, scoring true freshman Keaschall and tying the game at 1-1. He scrambled home on a wild pitch a few pitches later to give the Dons a 2-1 lead — a lead they wouldn't surrender for the rest of the night.
Junior Jack Winkler went 2-for-5 with a late RBI that pushed USF's lead to 6-2 in the ninth, and graduate transfer Ryan Davis went 2-for-4 in the nine-hole, scoring a run. Junior Nick Yovetich (1-for-4) had a double and a run scored, and true freshman Christian Stapleton went 1-for-2 with two walks and a clutch two-out RBI single in the top of the eighth that gave the Dons some breathing room at 4-2.
"I'm excited to get a win," said Giarratano. "Really happy for the guys. They worked extremely hard through the whole pandemic and they kept themselves safe and healthy and kept on believing.
"Offensively I thought we were pretty good. We scraped some runs together, pitching we were plenty good, we played good defense."
UCLA pushed across the game's first run in the bottom of the third with a two-out RBI single from Matt McLain. USF answered with its two runs in the fourth, and Jordan Vujovich's leadoff solo homer on the first pitch of the fifth ensured USF would stay ahead in the sixth when UCLA pushed across its second run after Bourassa exited.
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Friday's win over the preseason No. 2 Bruins was the Dons' first win over a nationally ranked team since March 13, 2016, when they shut out then-No. 4 Oregon State, 5-0, in Corvallis, Oregon.
"We're gonna enjoy this for six hours and probably get ready for game No. 2," said Giarratano. "UCLA won 52 games two years ago and they were 13-2 last year, so I would think they're plenty riled up and they'll come out and play like the Pac-12 champions they've been. We've got our work cut out for us. If we don't come out and play tomorrow, they'll put it on us. That's a really good team we just beat."
Game two is scheduled for a 5 p.m. ET first pitch Saturday. USF righty Eric Reyzelman is slated to throw against UCLA's righty Jesse Bergin. Fans can find all live coverage links on USFDons.com.