Gerrit Cole's seven-plus strong innings weren't enough for UCLA (Photo Credit: Official Site)
For seven innings, the series opener between #5 UCLA and #3 Arizona St. was everything that it was cracked up to be. The pitching on both sides was superb, there were defensive plays that elicited standing ovations from both sets of fans and there were even a few hard hit balls. One bad inning by the Bruins ended that, though, and handed Arizona St. the win, 5-1, in front of 1,436 fans. With the win, the Sun Devils increased their lead over UCLA to 3.5 games in the Pac-10.
Despite seven tremendous innings, Gerrit Cole was the hard-luck loser for UCLA as he dropped to 6-1 on the year. Against the Pac-10's highest scoring offense, Cole struck out nine and allowed just two runs on 124 pitches in seven-plus innings, but he was let down by his offense and a bullpen that was unusually erratic. After Cole was pulled, Erik Goeddel allowed a run and only retired one batter and Matt Grace let two come across without recording an out. Garett Claypool was able to get two outs without allowing a run and Matt Drummond threw a scoreless ninth.
No Bruin accounted for more than one of UCLA's six hits. Blair Dunlap had a hit to extend his his streak to nine games and he also scored the Bruins' only run of the game. Cody Regis and Chris Giovinazzo each drew a walk to go along with a hit apiece to reach base twice.
Sterling defense began in the first inning when the Sun Devils turned a fantastic double play to end the inning. Shortstop Drew Maggi made a sliding, backhanded grab of a hard hit ball that he grabbed on a short hop and threw to second to start the double play.
Another double play in the second inning put a cap on what could have been a big inning for the Bruins. After singles by Dunlap and Regis put runners on the corners with nobody out and brought Dean Espy to the plate. Espy hit a hard chopper to third, which the Sun Devils turned for an easy double play as Dunlap scored to put the Bruins ahead, 1-0.
In the fourth inning, the Sun Devils evened up the game. After a lead off walk and passed ball put a runner at second, Cole surrendered a double off of the wall in right center that tied the game at 1-1. An out and a walk put two on for the Sun Devils with the go-ahead run at third, but Cole got a fly out to end the threat.
It looked as if the Bruins might answer in the bottom half of the inning, but UCLA saw their best chance to take the lead back slip away. After the first two batter of the inning were retired, a walk, single and hit by pitch loaded the bases for Steve Rodriguez. The Bruin catcher was unable to bring anyone home though as his foul tip on a 2-2 pitch was held onto by the ASU catcher for strike three.
The next half inning saw Arizona St. threaten again with runners at the corners, but Cole got out of it. On a 1-2 count, Cole reached back for a little more on his fastball and got Riccio Torrez, who hit the RBI double the inning before, swinging at a high fastball from strike three.
Some poor execution cost the Bruins a chance to regain the lead in the fifth. A walk by Chris Giovinazzo and single by Beau Amaral started off the inning. After Cody Keefer was unable to get the sacrifice bunt down and was retired, Giovinazzo was thrown out at third on a double steal. That brought a halt to the UCLA momentum and the Bruins went quietly from there on.
Cole has been superb, striking out the last batter of the fifth, the side in the sixth and the first batter in the seventh to shut down the Sun Devils' attack. In the eighth, Cole allowed a lead off double to lead off the inning. At that point, Cole was lifted and on the way to the dugout, tipped his cap to the UCLA fans who gave him a standing ovation for his efforts.
Goeddel entered for Cole and walked the first batter he faced. The next batter attempted to put down a sacrifice bunt, but Goeddel did well to hop off the mound and barehand the bunt along the third base line before throwing to third for the force out. Goeddel then made way for Grace, but the first batter that Grace saw roped a triple to right center, scoring two. A single followed, scoring another run for a 4-1 Arizona St. advantage. After Claypool came in, a wild pitch moved the runners up 90 feet and a sacrifice fly plated the final run of the inning.
Drummond threw the ninth inning for the Bruins and was helped out by a fantastic diving play by Beau Amaral in center, who then threw to second to double off the runner. It meant little though as the Bruins were retired in order int he ninth to end the game.
The Bruins and Sun Devils will resume their series tomorrow at 2 pm PDT at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Trevor Bauer, who is 6-2 with a 2.57 ERA will take to the mound for UCLA opposite ASU's Merrill Kelly, who is 8-0 with a 3.75 ERA.