Any concerns about the UCLA offense were put to bed, at least for one night, as the bats came out early and the Bruin pitchers continued their tremendous start to the season as second-ranked UCLA dominated Pepperdine, 9-0, on Tuesday night. After a weekend in which they scored just eight runs all weekend some began to worry about the Bruins' offense, but on a cold night at Jackie Robinson Stadium the bats put up five first inning runs and had no trouble getting past Pepperdine to improve to 4-0 on the young season.
A stellar weekend of pitching has turned into a stellar four games of pitching. In 36 innings this season, UCLA pitchers have allowed only one unearned run on 17 hits and have struck out 44. Tonight it was Scott Griggs who got the start, a sophomore who didn't get much time last season and was making his first start of his career, but has a cupboard full of talent. Griggs struck out five and allowed two hits in his four innings of work before handing the ball to Ryan Deeter who struck out three in his 1.2 innings. Zack Weiss got more work out of the bullpen and retired all four batters he faced, just as Chase Brewer retired the three batters he faced. Brandon Lodge got the chance to wrap the game up this time around and finished off the shutout with a scoreless ninth.
UCLA didn't do a ton of damage at the plate because of all their hits. In fact, the Bruins got their nine runs on just nine hits, but they showed patience at the plate in drawing eight walks and got hit by a pitch to go with timely hitting. Chris Giovinazzo led the way with a 2-3, two RBI, two run and two walk effort and Tyler Heineman went 1-4, but scored a run and drove in a pair. Pat Valaika didn't get a hit in any of his first three games at the college level over the weekend, but the freshman went 2-3 with three RBI on Tuesday night, while Cody Keefer came across to score a couple of runs.
The Bruins got going thanks to a bit of luck as Jeff Gelalich drew a one-out walk and Tyler Rahmatulla's slow grounder was bobbled, allowing him to reach first with an infield hit. A soft liner by Dean Espy found a cozy spot in front of the Pepperdine left fielder for a single to load the bases for Giovinazzo, who took advantage. The senior outfielder roped an 0-1 pitch right over the second baseman's head for a single that scored Gelalich and Rahmatulla. Leading 2-0, UCLA added to their lead with a bit of help from Pepperdine when Keefer's sacrifice bunt was thrown over the first baseman's head allowing Espy to score and putting Bruins on second and third. Heineman picked up his first RBI of the game with a ground out to second that scored Giovinazzo and then Valaika picked an opportune time to get his first collegiate hit as his single scored Keefer to put UCLA up 5-0.
With the way that the Bruins have pitched a 5-0 lead was basically game over, but with Griggs making his first start and some inexperience in the bullpen some more runs would not have been frowned upon. The five-run first inning knocked the Pepperdine starting pitcher out of the game, but it didn't look like it would help when three straight Bruins drew free passes with two outs in the second. For the second consecutive inning UCLA had the bases loaded, but this time around they couldn't capitalize and had a zero go up on the scoreboard for their second inning efforts.
Griggs didn't have much issue in either of the first two innings, but ran into some third inning trouble only to be bailed out by his defense. A one-out single by the Waves got them going and the runner stole second to put a man on second. With two outs, a 1-2 pitch was driven into right center, but the centerfielder Giovinazzo got a good jump and chased the ball down in the gap to snag it and end the frame.
In the fourth inning, Griggs ran into his biggest bit of trouble, but showed some moxie to get out of it. A one-out hit by pitch loaded the bases for Pepperdine and having walked a batter earlier in the inning Griggs' command clearly wasn't the sharpest it's been. The sophomore battled though and got the next batter to hit a comebacker that he grabbed and threw home to get the second out of the inning. With the bases still loaded Griggs was still in a jam and falling behind 3-0 to the batter didn't help, but Griggs came back with three good pitches to battle all the way back for the inning ending strikeout.
Having been largely shut down since the second inning the UCLA offense got going again in the fifth. Walks by Giovinazzo and Keefer put men on first and second with nobody out when Heineman hit a ball that dropped just inside the right field line for a double that scored Giovinazzo for a 6-0 Bruin lead. Pepperdine looked to cut down the man at the plate by bringing the infield in with runners at second and third, but it only worked against them when Valaika's slow roller got through the middle of the infield to score a pair, staking UCLA to a 8-0 lead.
After four scoreless innings Griggs made way for Deeter who had a smooth 1-2-3 fifth, but his evening came to an end with two outs in the sixth when the Waves loaded up the bases. Weiss relieved Deeter and did his job quickly by inducing a ground out to get the Bruins out of the sixth inning unscathed.
An 8-0 lead allowed head coach John Savage to work in some lesser-used players and Kevin Williams was one of those players. The freshman made his collegiate debut with a pinch hit appearance and single in it to give himself a perfect 1.000 career batting average. Brewer was another player who got to make his season debut and the redshirt sophomore threw a perfect eighth inning.
An eight inning double play put a pair of outs on the board, but also allowed Cody Regis to score to give UCLA a 9-0 lead. That lead was turned over to Lodge in the ninth inning and the redshirt junior struck out a pair to finish off the game and UCLA's 4-0 start.