Pitching Sensational Again As UCLA Tops USF 4-1

Jeff Gelalich was the centerpiece of the offense that did enough to help out the great pitching in UCLA's 4-1 win over USF (Photo Credit: Official Site)

So Trevor Bauer couldn't match Gerrit Cole's complete game from the day before, but he was still fantastic and the bullpen finally got their first work of the season as they backed Bauer up to lead UCLA to a 4-1 win over San Francisco at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Impending rain moved the start of the game up up an hour from 2 pm to 1 pm and there was a very short rain delay in the fourth inning as well as other spurts of drizzle, but it was never going to stop the Bruin pitchers as second-ranked UCLA improved to 2-0 on the season.

Bauer got the nod for the Bruins on Saturday and as is usually the case with the junior, he had a bit of a battle in the first inning. Once he got through that though, Bauer was sharp and after surrendering a first inning single, he did not allow another hit until the eighth inning. By the time he day came to an end after 7.2 innings, Bauer had allowed one unearned run on two hits, walked four and struck out 10 on 118 pitches. Mitchell Beacom got his first action of the season and got a strike out and gave up a hit against the two batters he faced before giving way to Nick Vander Tuig. The closer Vander Tuig picked up the save by retiring the three batters he faced in order to pick up the save in his first collegiate appearance. Now two games into the season, in 18 innings this year, UCLA pitchers have given up only one unearned run on seven hits and has struck out 23.

A day after mustering only one run on four hits, the UCLA offense quadrupled their run total and doubled their hit total. Jeff Gelalich led the way by going 3-3 with a double, run scored, two stolen bases and a sacrifice bunt for good measure. Tyler Rahmatulla added a pair of hits himself to go along with two RBI, a run scored and a stolen base. Dean Espy also picked up a RBI in the contest to close out the Bruins' scoring.

It's pretty common for Bauer to have some first inning struggles and that was the case again on Saturday. The Dons' lead off man hit a grounder to shortstop that Pat Valaika went into the hole to grab and throw across the diamond, but Espy couldn't make the pick at first and it went into the book as a single. The next batter tried to put down a sacrifice bunt, but Bauer was quick off of his mound to snag the ball before it hit the ground and he threw to first to complete the double play. A walk put another man on base, but Bauer got his first strike out of the game to finish the inning.

UCLA's bats didn't take long to get going, but they didn't get going enough to warm up the scoreboard. Consecutive one-out singles by Gelalich and Rahmatulla put two men on and after a wild pitch and walk, UCLA had the bases loaded with only one out. The next batter, Cody Keefer, went down on strikes though and Cody Regis followed with a fly out to left field to end the inning.

It wasn't until the fifth inning that the Bruins finally put the scoreboard to work. A lead off single by Steve Rodriguez got the Bruins going, but after Beau Amaral hit into a fielder's choice two batters later, all UCLA had was a man on first with two outs. That's when Gelalich made his presence felt again, roping a double down the right field line to put runners on second and third with Rahmatulla coming up. As the number three hitter, Rahmatulla is charged with driving runs in and that's what he did, hitting a liner back up the middle to score Amaral and Gelalich for a 2-0 UCLA lead.

With a two-run cushion, Bauer didn't do anything different than he had been doing. Prior to the Bruins' two runs in the fifth, Bauer had retired 11 straight and he kept that up with a one-two-three sixth inning.

In the seventh inning, UCLA added to their lead with a couple more two-out runs. The first of the runs was all Gelalich's doing. The sophomore picked up a two-out single up the middle and then stole second to move into scoring position. Gelalich then proceeded to steal third and when the throw from the catcher got past the third baseman, Gelalich scampered home for a 3-0 Bruin advantage. Rahmatulla followed Gelalich by walking and stealing second so when Espy launched a double to the warning track in center field, Rahmatulla trotted home easily for the run and 4-0 lead.

Things got a bit shaky for UCLA in the eighth inning. The Dons' lead off man hit a ball to semi-deep center field and it looked as if Chris Giovinazzo had settled under it, but the senior dropped the ball and by the time he picked it up and threw it in, USF had their lead off man on third. A walk followed, but Bauer got the first out of the inning with a good 2-2 breaking pitch for a strikeout. Bauer couldn't get the next man though as a chopper made its way through the right side for a single and RBI even if it wasn't an earned run to Bauer. Bauer got the next man to fly out, but with a lefty at the plate and runners at first and second, head coach John Savage made the move to bring the left-handed Beacom into the game and it paid off. Beacom ended up in a full count, but threw a good fastball on the corner for strike three to end the frame.

With the left-handed clean up hitter leading off the ninth for USF, Savage stuck with the left-handed Beacom and when the count went full, Beacom went back to the fastball on the outside corner, but it was smacked into left for a lead off single. At that point, Savage went to Vander Tuig, his freshman closer, who showed no signed of nerves in his first collegiate appearance by getting the first batter he faced out on one pitch. The next batter went down in two pitches before Vander Tuig finished off the game with a four-pitch strikeout for the save.

UCLA and USF will finish off their season opening series Sunday at 1 pm PST when Adam Plutko takes to the mound for the Bruins and Matt Hiserman gets the nod for the Dons. Plutko is a freshman making his first career collegiate start after being drafted in the sixth round by the Houston Astros, while Hiserman is a redshirt senior who went 1-5 with a 5.71 ERA in 2010.

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