Adam Plutko continues to pitch great for the Bruins without the reward of a win (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
Once again, Adam Plutko couldn't get the win and through no fault of his own. The freshman continues to pitch extraordinarily, but the offense, defense or bullpen has routinely failed him and on Saturday, it was the bullpen. UCLA and Stanford split the first two games of a key Pac-10 series in Palo Alto and it looked like the Bruins would grab the series finale until a two-out Stanford rally in the ninth ended their hopes of winning the series. The Cardinal scored four runs in the ninth, all with two outs to come back and defeat the Bruins, 5-4, in a heartbreaker for the visitors.
Plutko did his job, allowing just one unearned run in 6.1 innings of work to put himself in line for the win. The freshman allowed just four hits, but how good Plutko pitches seems inconsequential nowadays as he remains winless since his second start of the season. Mitchell Beacom tossed 1.1 innings of steady relief, but Nick Vander Tuig blew the save by allowed four runs in an inning of work. The game didn't end with Vander Tuig though. He handed the ball to Zack Weiss, who walked the only two batters he faced before Brandon Lodge allowed the walk-off single to his only batter.
For a team devoid of power, UCLA showed some pretty good power on Saturday. Of the Bruins' seven hits, six went for extra base hits. That included Cody Keefer's two doubles and run scored. It also included Pat Valaika's first career home run as part of his two-hit game. Beau Amaral had a double of his own to stretch his hitting streak to 11 games, but Cody Regis saw his 15 game hit streak come to an end.
Neither team put together anything resembling a threat until the second inning when both teams had chances. For UCLA, it was a two-out double by Keefer that gave the Bruins a chance, but he was stranded there. Stanford had a man reach with one out on a dropped third strike and a walk followed to put two men on, but Plutko got out of the inning unscathed.
In the fourth inning, UCLA made a double count. Dean Espy led off the frame by hitting the first pitch he saw down the left field linee for a two-bagger and Regis' ground out moved him to third. Chris Giovinazzo followed with a ground out of his own, one that allowed Espy to come in from third and the Bruins were first on the scoreboard.
All of the damage in the sixth inning came in the inning's first two batters as the Bruins added to their lead. Once again, it started when the lead off man hit the first pitch of the inning as Jeff Gelalich laced one down the right field line for a triple. Amaral showed some patience in working a 3-0 count, but he had the green light and took advantage by hitting one of his own down the right field line. His went for a double and Gelalich come in to score to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead over the Cardinal.
The biggest of UCLA's six extra base hits came from Valaika as the freshman picked out a 1-0 pitch with two outs and drove it deep to left. The Stanford left fielder gave chase and wandered all the way back to the wall, but he had no play on the ball as it fell over the fence for a solo home run and 3-0 Bruin lead.
Despite putting zeroes up on the scoreboard, it wasn't Plutko's most dominant start. After a strong start, he got a bit of fortune as hard hit balls found his defenders for outs. That only lasted until the seventh inning when a one-out walk was followed by a double to left that put two men in scoring position. That double would be the last pitch of Plutko's day as Beacom entered for him, but it wasn't a bright start. A passed ball brought home a run and the Bruin lead was only 3-1 with a man on third. That's when Beacom buckled down and got a strike out and foul out to end the inning with UCLA still ahead by a pair.
UCLA would get the run they gave out in the seventh back in the ninth. Keefer started off the inning by lacing his second double of the game to left and after a sacrifice bunt, he was at third with one out. A wild pitch would bring Keefer home and with a 4-1 lead, it looked like the Bruins would win.
When Vander Tuig retired the first two batters of the ninth it really looked like UCLA would grab the win, but things went steeply downhill from there. A single gave Stanford hope, then on a 3-2 count Vander Tuig walked the next batter. Vander Tuig got the next man in a 3-2 count, but this time he surrendered a single that scored a run and made it a 4-2 ballgame. The next batter hit the very first pitch he saw down the right field line and scored both base runners to tie the game at four apiece. That brought an end to Vander Tuig's day, but going to Weiss didn't help as he walked both of the batters he faced to load the bases. Head coach John Savage then brought in Lodge and on a 3-2 count, he allowed a fly ball single to center that scored the winning run and won the series.