UCLA advances to first back-to-back Super Regional

LOS ANGELES — For much of the weekend, luck carried UCLA. There were hits that bounced off bases, that nicked past outstretched gloves, that swam unseen into the stadium lights.

The Bruins needed no breaks Sunday evening, punching a ticket to the first back-to-back Super Regional in program history. A flurry of early runs coupled with the most dominant pitching performance of the Los Angeles Regional gave UCLA an easy 6-0 win over San Diego and a weekend sweep.

“They’re a juggernaut here at Jackie Robinson Stadium,” USD coach Rich Hill said.

The first inning dragged out to nearly 40 minutes as UCLA battered Toreros starter Max Homick — a lefty who had closed a win over Cal Poly less than an hour ago. Despite facing a lineup loaded with six left-handed batters, the sophomore lasted just 1/3 innings as he saw his season ERA swell by half a run.

Starting with outfielder Brian Carroll’s beautifully placed leadoff bunt, the Bruins could do little wrong as they batted around the order. Shortstop Pat Valaika’s single plated the first two runs, and first baseman Pat Gallagher scored one more on an infield single — getting on base because Homick forgot to cover.

Three at-bats later — after a pitching change — Cody Regis singled to right field with bases loaded to cap the four-run inning.

Gallagher was named the Most Outstanding Player for his 6-of-10 performance through three games, one that included five RBI. Four other Bruins made the all-regional team, including Sunday starter Grant Watson.

It was he who kept the cushion safe, dealing brilliantly through seven scoreless innings. The lefty used only 84 pitches, striking out five and walking one. The only time he flirted with danger was on a failed pickoff attempt that put a runner on third — a mistake he remedied with a forced groundout to end the seventh.

“He was in complete command of the game,” said UCLA coach John Savage, who earned his 25th postseason win and is now one shy of the all-time school record.

After Watson sat, the Bruins rolled out a bullpen that Hill called one of the best in college baseball history. Zack Weiss and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year David Berg faced the minimum six batters to end the game.

“You cannot get behind to UCLA,” Hill said. “You can’t afford to be down by a run, because then it’s (James) Kaprielian, it’s Berg, it’s Weiss. The game’s over.”

Toreros knock out Mustangs

San Diego’s season later ended against the Bruins, but the Toreros still worked their way out of the loser’s bracket after dropping a regional opener to Cal Poly.

In a Sunday afternoon rematch, USD put together four big runs in the sixth inning as they downed the Mustangs, 8-5. In a game in which neither starter lasted past four innings, it was the middle of the lineup that came through for San Diego.

Batting fourth and fifth, first baseman Connor Joe and catcher Austin Green combined to bat 3-of-6 with four RBI.

“It’s obviously not what we wanted, especially after beating USD the first day,” Cal Poly catcher Elliot Stewart said. “We were expecting to handle it against UCLA and win this thing and go to the Super (Regional).”

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