UCLA baseball has 14 new players coming to Westwood this fall to replace the 10 who got picked in the 2021 MLB Draft and even more who graduated and went elsewhere. From top recruits to under-the-radar prospects and high-profile transfers, All Bruins is breaking all of them down to see what they could offer UCLA in 2022 and beyond.
Here is the report on Orange Coast College transfer Kelly Austin.
One of the top arms in the Junior College ranks will join UCLA via transfer after success in his freshman and summer campaigns.
Joining the Bruins entering his sophomore year, right-handed pitcher Kelly Austin brings his efficient appearances on the mound straight to Westwood. Playing his freshman year at Orange Coast College (CA), Austin made a name for himself, becoming the Pirates' ace as the season dwindled down. Coach John Savage will need to decide what role the transfer arm will play in 2022, with Austin’s track record likely already pushing him into a key spot in the pitching staff right off the bat.
The Newport Harbor High School (CA) alumnus joined Orange Coast College for the 2020 season, but the campaign was cut short due to COVID-19 after Austin only threw 15.1 innings.
Returning to Orange Coast College for the spring, Austin proved he could carve up lineups at the Junior College level and made no question about his Division I ability. In seven starts for the Pirates, Austin had six wins, a 1.57 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 46 innings without allowing a single home run. Austin was named Orange Empire Conference Pitcher of the Year for his performance in 2021.
Austin’s pitching stance features a small hop in his delivery, but it is not as funky of a motion that Bruin alumnus Zach Pettway showed for the past four seasons.
Before Austin headed to Westwood, the right-hander played summer baseball in the West Coast League with the Cowlitz Black Bears.
As part of the Black Bears’ starting rotation, Austin put up statistics that are stronger than any other of his Bruins’ teammates from this summer. In 63 innings, Austin started ten games, winning four, while posting a 2.43 ERA, eight walks and 83 strikeouts. In all games where Austin went five innings or more, he had at least seven strikeouts, with his high being 11 strikeouts in two of his outings.
His Cowlitz manager Brian Burres said he sees potential in Austin’s arm:
“When he goes out there, you know you’re going to get some intensity from him on the mound,” Burres told The Daily News. “It’s great. He’s super polished for how young of a pitcher he is. It’s just really fun to watch every time he’s able to toe the hill.”
Similar to his latest junior college season, Austin received accolades for his performance in the summer. Austin was named to the All-WCL First Team for the 2021 season.
Before the summer, Austin had an outside shot of becoming a part of the starting rotation, but after his more than successful summer, it seems all but certain. If Austin is not the guy for the Bruins in the rotation, he will be the closer out of the pen. Max Rajcic filled that role in 2021 and now will make the move to start on the weekends, so there is a considerable opening in that spot. Austin’s prior results before joining the Bruins practically guarantees the sophomore playing time, but at the end of the day, it will all lie on where Savage sees his future. Former UCLA righty Adrian Chaidez made a name for himself in the bullpen after transferring in from Cyprus Community College, getting scooped up in the 2021 MLB Draft after two years in the program. Austin could be the next transfer pitcher to make his mark on the Pac-12, whether that’s as a Sunday guy or late-game specialist.