Beau Amaral benefitted from a Cal error to come around and score the winning run (Photo Credit: Official Site)
You're up and then you're down. Then you're back up and right back down again. You're down to your final out and your final strike twice. Your ace is battling himself a bit and you've hit into four double plays. That's what was facing UCLA on Friday afternoon in their Pac-10 series opener versus California, yet they managed a win. With help from some shoddy Golden Bears defense, the Bruins put a three spot in the board in the ninth inning, all with two outs, to come back from a two run deficit and win in Berkeley, 8-7. The win marked UCLA's seventh consecutive in conference play and their ninth win in their last 10 games overall. With the win, UCLA bumped its record to 39-11 overall and 14-8 in the Pac-10, which still has them in second place with a two game lead and just five left to play.
The depth of the UCLA lineup got things done again, with the top, middle and bottom of the Bruin lineup contributing to the team's eight run, two hit performance. Beau Amaral had a pair of hits, runs scored an a RBI in the two-hole. In the middle of the lineup, Justin Uribe had a pair of hits in the four spot, the same line as the number five hitter, Cody Regis. Batting seventh, Jeff Gelalich went 2-3 with two RBI and behind him Niko Gallego went 2-4 with a run scored. Even those coming off of the bench made their presence felt as Chris Giovinazzo walked and scored in his lone at-bat and Dean Espy picked up a pin-hit, RBI single.
It wasn't the best of days for Gerrit Cole, but he managed to pitch deep into the game and when he exited, the Bruins did lead. The sophomore allowed five runs in 7.1 innings, but he did strike out seven. What got to Cole was the four doubles and triple that accounted for five of the nine hit he surrendered. He gave way to Dan Klein, who had one of his rockiest innings of the year when he allowed a runner he inherited to score then allowed a two-run homer. The right-hander bounced back in the ninth though, shutting the Bears down to improve to 5-0 on the season.
Neither team mustered a base runner in the first inning, but the Bruins broke the deadlock in the top of the second. A single by Uribe started things and when Regis' bunt was popped up, the Cal pitcher came charging in and dove, only to drop the ball for a single. A walk followed and with the bases juiced, Gelalich lined one down the right field line for a two-RBI stand up double. A grounder to third by Steve Rodriguez brought in another run and the Bruins held a 3-0 lead.
A lead off double by Cal in the bottom half of the second was made worse when an error by Amaral in center field allowed the runner to go to third. The extra base didn't matter much because the hit that brought the runner home was a double and the Bears trailed just 3-1 at this point.
In the fourth inning, the home team got their bats going and gave the game its first lead chance. After a one-out walk, a double put two men on. The next batter tripled to tie the game at three apiece and when the Bears picked up another double, they had themselves a 4-3 lead after four innings.
Chasing a run, the Bruins found base runners, but also double plays. Time after time UCLA hit into a double play, either on the ground or on a line drive, but however it happened, the Bruins were seeing their innings go to mush. That is until the eighth when things got crazy.
The eighth inning got off to a weird start before a pitch was thrown when Cal head coach Dave Esquer brought in Justin Jones to pitch, a freshman left-hander scheduled to start Saturday's contest. After Amaral led off the inning with a walk, what looked like another double play ball was thrown into left field by the second baseman when he went to second. This allowed Tyler Rahmatulla to reach base and Amaral to go to third, but then an error in left field on the back up let Amaral score and tie the game. The error also allowed Rahmatulla to take third and when the pinch-hitter Espy singled, Rahmatulla scored to give UCLA a 5-4 edge.
A single started off the Cal half of the eighth and after a balk and sacrifice bunt had the tying run at third with one out, Cole was pulled in favor of Klein. A sacrifice fly tied the game up and then Klein allowed a single and two-run blast that gave the Golden Bears a 7-5 lead.
Trailing by two going to the ninth, the Bruins gave themselves quick hope when Giovinazzo drew a walk and Gallego singled to put runners on the corners. Rodriguez sacrificed Gallego to second and with one out, the Bruins had the tying run at second. A strike out tempered UCLA's hopes and a grounder to second looked like it might end the game. On a 0-2 count, a make-able, but tough play went in UCLA's favor though and the infield single allowed the Bruins to cut the lead to 7-6 with the tying run at third. Then, on another 0-2 count, Rahmatulla singled home Gallego to tie the game, but he got some help from the Cal center fielder. A misplayed the ball on the single allowed Amaral to come all the way around from first to score and give UCLA a 8-7 lead.
Klein's shaky eighth inning gave the Bears hope that they could hit him again in the ninth and win, but the sophomore got three ground outs, one back to him, one to shortstop and one to third to put a ribbon on another UCLA win.
UCLA and Cal will do battle yet again on Saturday at 1 pm PDT when they take to Evans Diamond for game two of the three-game set. Trevor Bauer (8-3, 2.98 ERA) will get the nod against the originally-announced starter Justin Jones (9-4, 3.76 ERA). After Jones pitched today, there is no guarantee that he starts tomorrow so we'll have to see who actually toes the rubber tomorrow at one.