Friday's Dodgertown Classic game between UCLA and Vanderbilt was supposed to be all about the pitchers. After all, UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray are two of the nation's most talented sophomore arms and were Team USA's best pitchers over the summer. It is only natural to focus on the pitchers and to not do so would have been silly, but despite the arms getting all the talk, it was the Bruin bats that did the damage. The Bruins scored in four straight innings, most notably putting a six spot on the board in the fifth to down the Commodores, 9-2, and extend UCLA's win streak to begin the season to five, their longest season opening win streak since 1997.
It wasn't so easy in the early going and with Cole wild to begin, it looked like Vandy would get on the board. The first two batters for Vanderbilt were hit by pitches and a third was hit later in the inning. It mattered not, though, as Cole struck out two batters in the inning, including one with the bases loaded for the final out of the inning on a 99 MPH fastball to get out of the inning unscathed.
Sonny Gray flashed his talent too in the early going, striking out a pair in the first inning and another two in the second inning. UCLA did get to him in the third when Niko Gallego roped a lead off triple to deep left center. Cody Regis followed with a simple ground ball to third, but it was enough to plate Gallego and the Bruins were first on the board.
The fourth inning started with a big lead off hit, just as was the case in the third. Tyler Rahmatulla found the gap in left center this time to coast into second with a lead off double. Then, Justin Uribe grounded one deep into the hole at shortstop. The Vanderbilt shortstop got to it and fired to first. Uribe had the throw beaten out, but the throw did go high to allow Rahmatulla to take third. Another grounded to second, this time by Cody Keefer, produced another RBI and the UCLA lead was stretched to 2-0.
The fifth inning did not start well as Gallego struck out, but Regis picked up a bunt single and Beau Amaral singled to center. With runners at first and second, Marc Navarro singled through the right side to plate Regis and when Rahmatulla walked, the Bruins were ahead 3-0 with the bases loaded. The walk marked the end for Sonny Gray as he was yanked, but things didn't get better for the Commodores. Dean Espy came in to pinch hit and chopped one high over third base was a single, scoring two more to give the Bruins a 5-0 advantage. After Keefer flied to left for the second out of the inning, Brett Krill launched a double to deep center, driving home both Rahmatulla and Espy. UCLA got some help next when an error allowed not just Steve Rodriguez to reach base, but also Krill to score and with six runs in, the Bruins led 8-0 after five innings.
Having been on the bench for some time while the offense went to work, Cole cooled down and when he came out for the sixth, was not nearly as sharp as he had been earlier. A single followed by a double ended Cole's night as Matt Grace came in. Grace's curveball was sharp and he used it to get two quick strikeouts, but a balk, walk and hit by pitch gave Vanderbilt a run with the bases loaded. Head coach John Savage brought in Erik Goeddel to get out of the two-out jam and while he gave up a RBU single, he was able to get the next man out to minimize the damage.
Leading 8-2, UCLA stayed aggressive and after Regis walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth, he stole second. With one out, Navarro picked up his second RBI on a base hit that scored Regis and get one of the runs back.
Cole's start finished after five innings having given up two runs on four hits while striking out eight. Matt Grace's 0.2 innings were scoreless, as were Erik Goeddel's 2.1 innings. Dan Klein finished it with a perfect ninth inning to give the Bruins a 9-2 win and extend the UCLA bullpen's streak to 15.1 innings without allowing an earned run this season.
Espy finished the night 2-2 with a pair of RBI and a run, while Navarro's 2-4 outing with two RBI and a run wasn't too shabby either. Krill's double was his only hit, but it was a big one and netted him a pair of RBI. Rahmatulla and Regis led the team in runs scored with each coming around to score twice.
Now 5-0 on the year, UCLA will take to the field on Saturday when they host Oklahoma St. at 2 pm PST. With rain in the forecast, there is a chance the game could be pushed back to the evening or scrapped all together. Keep an eye on my UCLA baseball twitter for updates on the game status. If the game is played, Trevor Bauer will be on the mound for the Bruins, trying to improve upon his 13 strikeout performance last weekend. Don't forget that on Sunday, UCLA will take on USC at Dodger Stadium at 2 pm PST. Tickets are available for $5 on Ticketmaster and will be $10 at the stadium on game day.