The Bruins' series opening game versus Cal Poly started off just like so many have this season for UCLA, but walks, an offense that went to sleep and some poor defense made Thursday night's game at Jackie Robinson Stadium much closer than it had to be. Versus a struggling Cal Poly team, the Bruins figured to have the upper hand and for a while they did, but the game tightened up. In the end, a 11-0 lead turned into an 11-7 game, but the Bruins were able to hold on for an 11-7 victory and improve their record to 18-0 on the season.
Eight Bruins recorded hits in the game and five players scored multiple runs, while five players chipped in with at least one RBI. Cody Keefer led the way, going 3-5 with five RBI and a pair of runs scored, while Dean Espy also went 3-5 with a pair of RBI. Tyler Rahmatulla went 1-2 with two runs and two RBI and Brett Krill came across to score three times. Blair Dunlap's four hits in five at-bats was tops in the game as the senior extended his hit streak to 13 games.
Gerrit Cole was sharp in the early going, but an awful fifth inning ruined the sophomore's start and sent him to the dugout with his worst start of the year. Even so, Cole picked up the victory to improve to 6-0 in six starts this season. Cole went just five innings and while he only allowed two hits and struck out seven, he also walked seven batters, which explains the three runs he allowed. Mitchell Beacom was also shaky in relief, surrendering four runs (three earned) in 1.1 innings, but Erik Goeddel and Dan Klein combined for 2.2 innings of scoreless relief with a pair of strikeouts each.
Dunlap got the game going with a lead off double in the first and Niko Gallego followed with a bunt single. A sacrifice fly by Rahmatulla plated Dunlap and a double by Krill scored Gallego. With one out, Keefer picked up the first of his five RBI when he singled up the middle to score Krill for a 3-0 lead.
The third inning brought about more scoring after Rahmatulla and Krill reached via walk and hit by pitch. A double steal moved both Bruin baserunners up 90 feet and when Keefer laced a single to left, both scored to put UCLA ahead 5-0. The very next pitch Dean Espy roped to center for a triple, allowing Keefer to score for a 6-0 advantage.
The Bruins did their biggest damage in the fourth inning when they put a five spot on the board. With none out, Rahmatulla doubled to right, scoring Dunlap from second and moving Gallego to third. The bases were loaded a batter later when Krill was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and set the stage for Keefer to rack up RBI numbers four and five with a base hit to right. Leading 9-0, Espy added another run with a RBI single and Chris Giovinazzo's ground ball to first scored Keefer for yet another UCLA run.
At this point, it seemed as if the Bruins would cruise, but the problem is that it looked like the players expected the same. UCLA was ahead 11-0 and had out-hit the Mustangs 12-1 and Cole had been in complete control since his four pitch first inning. When Cole came out for the fifth though, he couldn't find the plate. The right-hander allowed just one hit in the fifth, but he walked five and threw two wild pitches, allowing Cal Poly to score three runs in the inning.
With the UCLA lead cut to 11-3, Cole's day came to an end after the fifth and Beacom came in to help tie things up. After a 1-2-3 sixth inning, it looked as if that was exactly what he would do, but a double, error, single and walk with just one out in the seventh brought an end to Beacom's day. Goeddel relieved him and the first batter he faced doubled home all three runners on base to further cut the Bruins' lead to 11-7.
It looked as if the Bruins would get some insurance runs in the bottom half of the seventh, but consecutive swinging strikeouts after loading the bases with one out ended the UCLA threat. Goeddel threw a perfect eighth inning and Klein a perfect ninth to end the Bruins' shaky game with win number 18.
On Friday night, the UCLA pitching staff will look to shore things up after allowing a season-high seven runs Thursday night. Trevor Bauer (4-0, 2.05 ERA) will be charged with putting the clamp on the Mustangs offense, while Cal Poly will hand the ball to Matt Leonard (0-4, 6.59 ERA). The game is set for a 6 pm PST first pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium.