Garett Claypool bounced back with 7.2 excellent innings to lead the Bruins (Photo Credit: Official Site)
If the Bruins were looking for momentum heading into their big series versus Arizona St. this weekend, they sure found it in the past week. Last weekend, they went to Tucson, Arizona and took two of three from a top 20 Wildcats team and on Tuesday night, UCLA defeated UC Irvine 4-1. The win saw a return to form for the Bruins as they rode strong starting pitching and the occasional big hit to pick up a victory. With the win, the Bruins improved to 30-7 on the season, eclipsing the Bruins win total from last season by a full three games with 19 games still left to play.
The UCLA pitching staff has led the Bruins all season long and on Tuesday night, it was Garett Claypool who led the Bruins. The senior's 7.2 innings of six hit, one run ball lowered his ERA to 2.11 on the year and improved his record to 6-1. Only twice in the eight innings that Claypool started did the lead off man reach base and one of those was by way of error. After Claypool left the game with two outs in the eighth, Erik Goeddel entered and recorded the final out of the inning on just one pitch before Dan Klein struck out one in hit-less ninth inning to record his eighth save.
Once again, the Bruins struggled to convert with men on base. The Bruins stranded 13 runners versus the Anteaters, but they did do enough offensively to pick up the win. Blair Dunlap was the lone Bruin to record multiple hits, going 2-5 to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Chris Giovinazzo had the big hit on the evening, driving a pitch well out to left field for a two-run home run. Cody Regis chipped in as well with a 1-2, two run effort.
UCLA got off to an ominous start in the first inning, leaving men on base and reminding fans of the offensive struggles that the team has had of late. A single, error and walk loaded up the bases for the Bruins in the first, but Niko Gallego struck out to strand all three.
More runners were left on base in the second inning, but the Bruins did get a run prior to that. Walks by Regis and Giovinazzo started things and after a sacrifice bunt moved each up 90 feet, the Anteaters pulled their starting pitcher. The new pitcher got Beau Amaral to fly to right field, allowing Regis to tag and score for a 1-0 UCLA lead. After an error, the Bruins had two men on base, but both were stranded.
The third and fourth innings brought two more runners left on base in each inning, but in the fifth, the Bruins struck gold. Cody Keefer started things off by getting ahead 3-1 in the count and roping one down the right field line for a double. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third and on a 3-2 count, Regis pulled one to right field for a single to score Keefer from third. The very next pitch, the first that Giovinazzo saw, was hit deep and well beyond the fence in right field for a round tripper.
The sixth and seventh inning saw two more runners left on base in each, but the Bruins were still comfortably ahead, 4-0, with Claypool rolling.
In the eighth inning, Claypool finally got hit when a two-out single and double scored a run and brought the end of the day for Claypool.
After Goeddel retired the final batter of the eighth on one pitch, Klein came in to finish things off. What was almost a perfect inning was marred by a two-out error, but it didn't faze Klein and he got the next batter to hand UCLA the victory.