The Bruins’ Jackie Robinson Stadium hosted a slugfest between Cal and UCLA as the teams combined for 15 home runs in the series. With the uncertainty about the pitching performances and the Bears’ reliance on the long ball for offense, Cal’s bats put these questions to rest in a three-game sweep of the Bruins.
The Bears clubbed four home runs in each of the three games against the Bruins, highlighted by multi-homer games from Rodney Green Jr. and Max Handron. A bright side for UCLA was Jack Holman’s performance over the three-game span, hitting the only three long balls for the Bruins.
Despite Cal giving up quite a few runs in the first and third games, the pitching performances were solid as the offense provided the run support necessary to cruise through the series.
Of the 12 total long balls hit by the Bears, Handron dominated the stat sheet and finished the weekend with four home runs in three games. Green Jr. contributed with three homers, while Caleb Lomavita clubbed two of his own. Kade Kretzschmar, Carson Crawford and Dom Souto all supplied more offense with one home run each. Green Jr. and Kretzschmar now sit in seventh place in the Pac-12 home run leaderboard, with 12 apiece.
Each of the three games started the same way, as the Bears jumped out front in the early going, establishing a lead before the Bruins could respond.
The game on Friday was all Cal in the first five innings. Two home runs in the second inning and two Green Jr. long balls in the third and fifth put eight runs on the board before UCLA could tally its first. Christian Becerra started the game on the mound for the Bears, throwing 4.0 scoreless innings before allowing six earned runs to the Bruin offense — including a grand slam.
UCLA’s win leader Jake Brooks received his fifth loss of the season and gave up eight runs, seven of which were earned. He conceded all four of Cal’s homers in this game and failed to make it out of the fifth inning. The Bears added two more runs against the Bruins’ bullpen, and Cal’s Tyler Stasiowski earned the save in the 10-7 victory.
Saturday saw both teams shine on the pitching side, as Game 2 had the best pitching performances for both sides. Paulshawn Pasqualotto shoved in 5.0 scoreless frames for Cal, striking out four batters and only allowing three hits on his way to a win. His teammate, Andres Galan, pitched the remaining four innings and earned the save, also striking out four but surrendered two earned runs.
Despite receiving the loss, UCLA’s Kelly Austin gave his team some length with 7.1 IP and six strikeouts while conceding four earned runs on eight hits and a home run to Kretzschmar.
The Bears put the game out of reach in the top of the ninth, getting to the Bruins’ bullpen arms of Jake Saum and closer Cody Delvecchio for five runs of insurance. The 9-2 final score resulted in the largest margin win of the series for Cal, tallying 14 hits to UCLA’s six.
The series finale was much of the same for the Bears’ offense, again putting up nine runs with a tetrad of homers. Cal took the lead early, but UCLA stormed ahead with a three-run fifth inning, commanding its first and only lead of the series, albeit for just half an inning.
The Bears claimed the lead right back after scoring three runs of their own on a pair of long balls from Handron and Lomavita. Handron would go on to hit his second two-run home run of the game in the eighth, going deep in back-to-back games off Delvecchio.
Robert Aivazian pitched well for the Bears in his first two innings of relief before getting into trouble in the ninth, getting tacked with three earned runs in the process. Tucker Bougie came in to put out the fire, walking one batter and striking out the side to leave the tying run on third, earning the save in a close game of 9-8 and narrowly escaping the Bruins’ late-game rally.
This series sweep moves Cal up two spots and out of last place in the Pac-12 rankings with a much-needed win — the Bears hadn’t won a series since April 16 at Utah. The next and final regular season challenges for Cal are going to be two more back-to-back conference series; the Bears will take on Washington State, the second-to-last team in the conference, followed by Pac-12 No. 5 Washington later this month.