UCLA baseball hangs on 3-2, knocking off defending champion Vanderbilt

The No. 6-ranked UCLA baseball team picked up a big non-conference win at home on Friday night, defeating defending national champion and No. 2 Vanderbilt 3-2 in front of a sold out crowd of 2,215.

The top-10 matchup lived up to its billing, with the two teams tied or separated by one run for essentially the entire game. The contest was the opening game of the Southern California College Baseball Classic, co-hosted by UCLA and USC and also featuring TCU.

UCLA (12-1) built up a decisive 3-0 lead thanks to a single run in the third followed by a two-spot in the fourth. Vandy (11-4) responded with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth, but Bruins starter Zach Pettway and the UCLA bullpen combined to keep the Commodores off the board the rest of the way.

ALL-TIME LINEUP: UCLA’s all-time starting nine

Redshirt freshman JT Schwartz opened the game’s scoring, lining a 1-0 offering from Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker into the left-center field gap to score senior left fielder Kyle Cuellar from first base. Cuellar had reached earlier in the frame on a one-out walk.

Iffy command proved decisive for Rocker in the fourth, as he loaded the bases with nobody out on two walks and a hit-by-pitch before being pulled from the game.

Junior center fielder Garrett Mitchell made the Commodores pay for those free runners, as his fly ball to left field brought in one on a sac fly before an errant throw from the VU left fielder plated another run. On that play, Cooper Davis made the catch and then stepped towards home but threw towards third. Vandy shortstop Carter Young — who was covering the third base bag — took his eye off the play after Davis stepped towards home and the ensuing throw sailed into the Bruin dugout.

Vanderbilt scored both its runs on a fifth-inning double from Parker Noland. Only one of those runs was earned against Pettway after leadoff hitter Dominic Keegan reached on an error.

The Commodores threatened in the late innings, but the UCLA bullpen was up to the task each time.

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