The freshman pitchers got the job done for UCLA (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
A loss on Friday night makes comes back to win the series awfully tough, but that's just what UCLA did against Cal St. Bakersfield. Gerrit Cole got beat on Friday, but Trevor Bauer was sensational on Saturday. That set up Adam Plutko on Sunday and the freshman continued his outstanding, but underrated season to wrap up the series. The Bruins got three runs early and the pitching made it stand up as UCLA defeated the Roadrunners, 3-2, in front of 1,267 fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Sunday. That leaves UCLA at 29-19 on the year heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
After a long string in which Plutko pitched spectacularly, but couldn't catch a break to get a win, the freshman has racked up three in a row. There was concern about whether or not he would be able to do it though as his arm was being asked to come back from a heavy workload a week after throwing his first career complete game. Plutko didn't look the least bit tired though. He struck out a career-high 12 in eight innings and walked just one while allowing just two runs on four hits to get the win and improve to 5-3 on the year. Nick Vander Tuig made it an all-freshman affair on the mound when he came on in the ninth to pick up his seventh save of the year.
It was a good thing that the pair of freshman were able to get the job done on the mound because the Bruins weren't at their best at the plate. UCLA struck out 10 times in just 32 plate appearances and walked just twice to negate an otherwise decent eight-hit performance. Dean Espy lead the way with two hits, two RBI and a run scored, including his second home run of the season. Chris Giovinazzo chipped in with two hits of his own, a run scored and a stolen base, while Beau Amaral scored a run and drove one in.
UCLA got off to an awfully quick start. Giovinazzo doubled to start the game and Amaral followed with a single to score him. Espy hit the very next pitch down the left field line, allowing Amaral to race around from first to score and put the Bruins ahead 2-0 before they had made an out.
In the third inning, Espy added to the UCLA lead. He got ahead in the count 2-0 and picked out his pitch, driving it deep to left for a solo home run that proved to be the game-winner.
The Bruins had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth when Tyler Heineman led off the frame with a bunt single and Giovinazzo followed with a single to center. Amaral moved Heineman to third when he flied out to right field, but a pop up and strikeout ended the fifth inning with UCLA still up just 3-0.
That 3-0 lead got a little tighter in the sixth. Plutko put a man on in a full count with two out then walked the following batter on another full count. It looked like Plutko might get out of it when he got ahead in the count to the next batter, 1-2, but the Roadrunners got a double to center, scoring a pair and cutting the UCLA lead to 3-2.
A perfect eighth inning with a pair of strikeouts was the end for Plutko, who was at 116 pitches, and brought on Vander Tuig. An error by Cody Regis with one out made things tough on the freshman as it brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but he came through by inducing lazy fly out before recording a game-ending strikeout to wrap things up.