UCLA had one weekend series left before conference play began and were in desperate need of a series win. To get that series win they had to go to Greenville, North Carolina and play the East Carolina Pirates in hostile Clark-LeClair Stadium. To boot, it rained all weekend and the series schedule had to be adjusted just to get all three games in. In the end, UCLA took two of three from the Pirates thanks to some good work out of the bullpen and some suddenly dangerous bats. The Bruins will look back at the weekend as an opportunity to get a sweep having been lost to some more poor defense, but to go on the road and get a series win is to be commended.
In an effort to get all three games in this weekend, the schedule was altered and the Bruins and Pirates played a doubleheader on Friday in a light rain. The first game of that doubleheader got off to a fantastic start for the Bruins. Blair Dunlap singled and Eddie Murray reached on an error to begin the game for UCLA. With one out, Justin Uribe roped a double that scored both Dunlap and Murray to put the Bruins ahead 2-0. Next, Cody Decker singled and Uribe came home. After a walk and infield single, Niko Gallego was hit by a pitch to force a run in and UCLA got their fourth and final run of the first. The UCLA lead didn't last long though as Rob Rasmussen struggled throughout his start. The Pirates scored six runs in the first inning and then added another in the third before Rasmussen's day was done. In 2+ innings, Rasmussen gave up seven runs on seven hits. Jason Novak came in to relieve Rasmussen and had some initial struggles of his own, allowing two more in the third. After three innings, UCLA trailed ECU 9-4. After the third though, the UCLA bullpen tightened up and shut down the Pirates. Novak went 2.2 innings after that third without allowing a run, while Matt Grace threw a scoreless inning and Gavin Brooks threw 2.1 one hit, no run innings. The UCLA relievers allowed only five hits and not a single run from the fourth inning on, giving the Bruin offense a chance to make a comeback. That offense started their comeback in the fifth when Decker hit a no out, two run homer to make the score 9-6. Later in the inning Dunlap singled to center, scoring Dustin Quist and the Bruins were within two. The UCLA comeback was completed in the sixth when the Bruins tallied three. Murray led off with a leadoff double and Casey Haerther singled to put runners on the corners. Uribe hit a sacrifice fly to plate Murray and then Decker hit another two run blast to put UCLA ahead 10-9. That score would hold the rest of the way and thanks to Decker's two homer, five RBI performance, Rasmussen avoided the decision in his disastrous start in the 10-9 UCLA win.
The second game of the doubleheader was played in conditions similar to the first. There was a consistent light rain, but it didn't stop the ball from traveling either over the wall or into the catcher's glove. Gerrit Cole got the nod for the Bruins and came out throwing gas. He struck out two in the first, three in the second and two more in the third, but the Pirates got a hold of two pitches and put them out of the park for a solo and two run homer. After three innings, Cole had seven punch outs, but gave up three runs. In the fourth, the Bruins turned the game around, but did so with plenty of help. UCLA scored five runs in the fourth on an error, hit by pitch, three walks, two wild pitches, a passed ball and only one hit. That hit was a two out, bases loaded double by Dunlap that scored two and ending the inning when Steve Rodriguez was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first. UCLA didn't have to do much more than stand there and let the ECU's pitcher implode, but that's what they did and after four innings the Bruins were ahead 5-3. Cole continued to throw heat and didn't surrender another run in his start while striking out 12 total in his five innings of work. After the Bruins batted in the sixth the game was suspended due to rain. When they came back the next day the game was continued and the Bruins gave away the lead quickly. Mitchell Beacom, who looked so dominant in his last apperance, gave up a three run homer putting ECU up 7-6. Trevor Bauer then entered the game and got the last two outs of the sixth. In the seventh, Dunlap hit a solo home run to tie the game and in the eighth Alex Weber-Shapiro notched his first career hit which drove home a run. In the ninth inning Gino Aielli singled home the final run of the game, putting UCLA ahead 8-6 and earning Bauer the first win of his career after 3.2 scoreless innings. In total, Cole and Bauer, both freshmen, struck out 17 Pirates.
The Bruins and Pirates didn't get much of a break after finishing game two because they had to squeeze in one more game, yet again in a light rain. The game started in a fashion all too familiar for the Bruins. In the Pirate's half of the first UCLA made two errors, allowing ECU to score four unearned runs. The Bruins got one of those runs back quickly when Gallego grounded out to bring home a run in the second and another back in the fifth when Murray hit a homer to make it 4-2. In the bottom half of the fifth though the Pirates scored three more. After a leadoff double and yet another error, UCLA pulled starting pitcher Charles Brewer from the game. Brendan Lafferty entered and was given a rude welcome when ECU hit a three run homer to make it 7-2 and close the book on Brewer. In his 4+ innings of work Brewer allowed five hits, struck out five and allowed six runs, only one of which was earned. UCLA tried yet another comeback when Decker hit his third home run of the weekend, a three run shot to make it 7-5, but that was all the Bruins had in them and they dropped the series finale.
For the weekend UCLA pitchers struck out 36 batters in 26 innings and the UCLA offense came alive. Murray reached base five times in the series finale and Decker hit three homers and drove in eight on the weekend as the Bruins averaged 7.7 runs a game. Now 5-12, UCLA will begin Pac 10 play on Saturday when they visit USC. There will be no midweek games as the players take a break for finals, something to keep an eye on because the Bruins could come out shaky Saturday following a week with less than usual time on the field. The Bruins still face an uphill climb to a regional, but a series win and a quality series win at that is a step in the right direction with two and a half months still left in the regular season.