UCLA hadn't had much success on Tuesday nights in the past few weeks. Two weeks ago, Cal St. Fullerton got to the Bruins early and the offense never got going enough to mount a comeback. Last week, the bullpen couldn't hold the lead against UC Riverside and the Bruins were eventually bested in 11 innings. On Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, the bullpen had some sixth inning trouble and came close to losing another lead. With memories of last week flashing through people's heads though, the bullpen came through and hung out to help the Bruins pull out a solid 6-4 win over Long Beach that improves UCLA to 17-12 on the year heading into this weekend's key Pac-10 series against Arizona.
Nobody would call the UCLA offense a juggernaut, but they are getting better and are now doing just enough to get the Bruins wins of late. Against the Dirtbags, UCLA knocked out 13 hits en route to their six runs. Cody Keefer led the way with a triple and double that drove in three runs, while Cody Regis also drove one in and scored one. Chris Giovinazzo and Dean Espy each had three hits, Giovinazzo scoring a run and driving one in, while Espy came around to score twice.
Head coach John Savage hoped that Zack Weiss would be the Tuesday starter at the beginning of the season, but arm soreness had him starting in the bullpen. He started two Tuesdays ago and settled down after some first inning trouble. Last week he pitched very well, but having only started once before was limited to three innings. Against Long Beach St., Weiss had a longer leash and earned every pitch he got. The freshman struck out five and allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings to pick up his first win as a starter. Ryan Deeter allowed four runs, while only retiring a batter and Brandon Lodge didn't record an out. The former Tuesday starter, Scott Griggs, got some gigantic outs in 1.2 scoreless innings and Mitchell Beacom got a pair of outs before Nick Vander Tuig worked 1.1 perfect innings to earn his fourth save.
The offense couldn't have gotten off to a better start as Giovinazzo led off the first inning by hitting a 1-2 pitch out to left center for his second home run of the season. Singles by Beau Amaral and Espy followed then Regis got the sacrifice bunt down to put two men in scoring position with just one out. When Pat Valaika flied out too shallow for Amaral to tag the Bruins had their backs against the wall with two outs, but then Keefer laced a triple to right center that scored a pair to give UCLA a 3-0 lead.
Staked to a 3-0 lead, Weiss went to work. He struck out a pair in the second and when he hit a batter who stole second to get into scoring position in the third, he kept his cool and got out of the inning. A single in the fifth inning didn't faze Weiss either. A ground out may have moved that runner into scoring position with two outs, but Weiss came right back to get the third out of the inning to complete his five scoreless frames.
UCLA added to their lead in the bottom half of the inning and it started with some help from the Dirtbags as Amaral led off by reaching on an error. A double by Espy put men on second and third before Regis hit a sacrifice fly that plated Amaral. A single by Valaika moved Espy to third and then with two outs the Dirtbags helped out again with a wild pitch that allowed Espy to come in and score.
A 5-0 lead had to make Savage more comfortable about turning to his bullpen, but he wasn't comfortable for long. After a fly out to start the inning, Deeter allowed three straight singles that scored a run and left Long Beach St. with two men still on base. When Deeter hit the next batter to load up the bases, Savage went to the bullpen for Lodge. That didn't help though as a single, walk and single scored three more runs. All of a sudden UCLA's lead was only 5-4 and the bases were still loaded. Savage went to Griggs and all the sophomore did was come in and get a strike out and fly out that stranded three men on base with the Bruins' lead intact.
Griggs tossed another good inning in the seventh before the offense got the Bruins a little bit of a cushion. Regis led off the inning with a single and Valaika bunted him over to third before Keefer came through again. This time the sophomore doubled, but it was more than enough to score Regis and stretch out the UCLA lead to 6-4.
With a man on second and two out in the eighth, Vander Tuig entered for Beacom and retired all four batters he faced to close the book on the Dirtbags. The save was a welcome reprieve for the Bruin bullpen that had blown leads in three of their last four opportunities to get the save, although two of those were helped by errors. Nevertheless, they closed things out and took some pressure off themselves with the Wildcats coming to Westwood this weekend.