Behind freshman Nick Kern’s two-run game-winning home run in the top of the ninth, the UCLA Baseball team picked up a 3-1 win over Utah at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City.
Kern also earned the save for UCLA with a scoreless ninth inning while Nick Green (1-3) took the loss for the Utes after surrendering the home run to Kern. Freshman Grant Dyer (5-3) picked up the win for UCLA with a scoreless inning in relief.
Sophomore James Kaprielian started the game for the Bruins and allowed one run on four hits in 6.2 innings pitched while striking out seven. Dalton Carroll started the game for Utah, pitching 7.1 innings and giving up one unearned run on three hits while striking out nine.
The first half of the game proved to be a pitcher’s duel as both Kaprielian and Carroll traded punches on the mound. The Bruins failed to score off of Carroll through the first six innings while Kaprielian scattered just three hits in six scoreless frames to keep the Utes off the board.
Then in the bottom of the seventh, Utah broke the scoreless tie with a run off of Kaprielian. Josh Rose doubled to lead off the inning, moving over to third on a sacrifice bunt. Kaprielian then surrendered back-to-back walks to load the bases, bringing up Max Schuman. Schuman hit a soft grounder back to the mound but it just got by Kaprielian and went to sophomore Trent Chatterton at short. Chatterton’s only play was to first and Rose came home to give the Utes a one-run lead.
The Bruins tied things up in the top of the eighth though with a run of their own. With one out, Chatterton singled up the middle before pinch-hitters Brett Urabe and Dominic Miroglio reached on back-to-back errors by Utah, loading the bases for sophomore Ty Moore. Moore came through on the first pitch, hitting a sacrifice fly to center to score Chatterton and tie the game up at 1-1. The next batter was junior Shane Zeile, who hit the ball hard to third but right at Utah’s Cody Scaggari. Scaggari gathered himself and got Miroglio at second on a force out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Utah looked for the go-ahead run by putting runners on second and third with one out against Dyer. Dyer did a great job to recover though, getting back-to-back strikeouts of Rose and pinch-hitter Biss Larsen to keep the game tied.
UCLA would go on to find the go-ahead runs in the top of the ninth. With one out, freshman Luke Persico doubled off the wall in left and two batters later Kern came in to make his first collegiate plate appearance. On a 1-2 count, Kern got a hold of a Nick Green fastball and took it over the fence in left for a two-run home run, giving the Bruins a 3-1 lead. Kern finished the game off with a clean ninth inning and the Bruins took game one of the series by that 3-1 score.
Chatterton and Persico each went 2-4 with a run scored at the plate to lead the Bruins.
UCLA (20-15, 8-5 Pac-12) and Utah (11-22, 2-14 Pac-12) continue their series tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. PT. The game will be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks.
Game Notes: UCLA’s pitchers struck out more than 10 batters for the seventh time this year, striking out 12 Utah batters…Aaron Weimer made the first start in his college career today, starting the game at third base…James Kaprielian’s scoreless innings streak was stopped at 27.2 with his run allowed in the seventh inning…Kaprielian has also now allowed two runs or less in eight of his 10 starts this season…in his last four starts, Kaprielian is 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA and 26 strikeouts…four of Kaprielian’s seven strikeouts today were called looking…Max Schuh has not allowed an earned run in his last 15 appearances (11.1 IP) and lowered his ERA to 1.00 with his scoreless 0.1 innings pitched today...Grant Dyer’s win today was his first career win in relief...UCLA has now won seven consecutive games over Utah...this was also the first career save for Nick Kern.