Chris Giovinazzo helped the Bruins get at least one win out of the weekend (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
UCLA's weekend against Oregon St. got off to a terrible start as they dropped the first two games of the series and what looked like a opportunity to give their resume a major boost turned into a hope their resume wouldn't get a black mark on it from a sweep. That's what the Bruins were facing when they took to the Jackie Robinson Stadium field for the third and final game of their series against the Beavers and much to the delight of the 1,107 in attendance, UCLA came away 5-2 winners. The win leaves the Bruins at 23-16 overall and 11-7 in the Pac-10, tied for third place with Cal and 2.5 games behind the conference leading Beavers.
It had been 63 days since Adam Plutko last won a game and amazingly, that is not the slightest bit of an indictment on his pitching. The freshman pitched sensationally start after start only to be betrayed by shoddy defense, an impotent offense or crumbling bullpen. That wasn't the case on Sunday though, even if he wasn't at his best. Plutko allowed nine hits and walked a pair in 6.1 innings so runners were on base, but he buckled down when he needed to and limited the Beavers to just two runs. Mitchell Beacom had issues of his own, allowing five hits in an inning-plus of work, two days after throwing 4.2 innings, but he kept a zero on the scoreboard. Nick Vander Tuig finished things up with a perfect 1.2 innings to pick up his fifth save of the year.
The UCLA offense has been criticized at times this season for a poor approach at the plate. That wasn't the case on Sunday though as they turned seven hits into five runs thanks to a patient approach that also included seven walks. Chris Giovinazzo hasn't spent much time in the lead off spot this season, but that didn't stop him from picking up three hits, walking once, stealing a base, driving in two runs and scoring two runs from that slot on Sunday. Behind him Beau Amaral drove in a pair and walked twice, while Trevor Brown picked up a pair of hits and scored a run to provide the offense in the latter part of the order.
It took until there were two outs in the third inning for UCLA to finally pick up a hit. After being no-hit on Saturday, the Bruins' first hit on Sunday's ballgame was a big deal and was their first hit in 12.2 innings. That hit didn't lead to a run, but it sure got the monkey off the Bruins' back.
The fifth inning providing plenty of excitement, but it was excitement that only benefitted the Bruins. Pat Valaika lost a fly ball in shallow left in the sun and it looked like a man would come in from second to score on the play, but Cody Keefer was there backing him up. Keefer grabbed the ball with his bare hand and rifled one to the plate where Steve Rodriguez was able to catch it and apply the tag for the out at home.
Then in the bottom half of the inning, UCLA got rid of the scoreboard's zero when Giovinazzo was on second with two outs. The Beavers chose to intentionally walk Dean Espy to get to Cody Regis, something the sophomore obviously didn't take kindly to so he smacked a 1-2 pitch into right for a double that scored Giovinazzo for a 1-0 UCLA lead.
UCLA's lead didn't last long though. Consecutive singles started the sixth for Oregon St. and a sacrifice bunt moved them both up 90 feet. From there it was a simple sacrifice fly to center that scored the tying run and everything was knotted at one again.
As quickly as Oregon St. responded to UCLA's run, UCLA responded to Oregon St.'s run. The bottom half of the sixth started with a walk by Keefer and single by Brown to put a pair on. A sacrifice bunt moved them up and pinch-hitter Marc Navarro walked to load up the bases. That's when Giovinazzo doubled to left to break the tie. Two men came in to score to make it a 3-1 UCLA lead, but Amaral only added to it with a single on the very next pitch that scored two more and all of a sudden UCLA was holding onto a 5-1 lead.
A one-out double in the seventh marked the end of Plutko's day, but Beacom came in and allowed a single to the first man he faced. That scored a run to make it a 5-2 game and another single followed to bring the tying run to the plate. That wasn't a problem for Beacom though, who struck out the next two batters t end the frame.
Things got hairy for Beacom again in the eighth when he allowed three consecutive one-out singles to load up the bases. At that point, head coach John Savage made the move to bring in Vander Tuig and let him go for the five-out save. The first two outs of those five came quickly as Vander Tuig induced a 4-6-3 double play to end the frame.
UCLA left the bases loaded in the eighth inning, but a 1-2-3 ninth inning by Vander Tuig made sure it didn't matter. The Bruins had come away 5-2 winners to salvage what was almost a lost weekend, but one they did enough in to hang around the Pac-10 race for at least one more weekend.