Saturday, February 20, 2010
Baseball: UCLA earns opening-night victory
Long before the rain made its way to Jackie Robinson Stadium, the UCLA baseball team had poured it on Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.).
The real rain began just minutes after the final out of the Bruins' 16-2 win. Players hurried into the clubhouse and laid out the tarp -- a quick process that took less time than UCLA's nine-run first inning.
Leadoff batter Blair Dunlap jumped on the first pitch he saw from Southern's Chase Richard, sending it over the left field fence for the 1-0 lead. UCLA would score eight additional runs -- plenty enough for ace pitcher Gerrit Cole, who gave up two runs on just one hit in six innings. He struck out nine of the 20 batters he faced.
"We got out to the big lead early and all you need to do is pound the glove," sophomore catcher Steve Rodriguez said. "Gerrit kept the pace up and kept them on the defense offensively."
Every Bruins starter had at least one hit. Offensively, the Bruins look far different than they have in recent years. The power came from unlikely sources: junior shortstop Niko Gallego hit his first career home run and Rodriguez, the No. 9 hitter, belted the third of his career. Each drove in four runs.
"I don't want to go throw a party, but I think people are going to like this offense," coach John Savage said. "It's only going to get better."
The Bruins play Bethune Cookman at 6 p.m. tonight in Compton as part of the third annual Urban Invitational. The game will be nationally televised on the MLB Network.