If UCLA is learning anything this season it is that they can lose the opening game of a series and still come back to take two of three on the weekend. Well, that and that they have an ace in the waiting for when Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer leave. Adam Plutko was on top of his game again and Chris Giovinazzo took to the leadoff spot as they helped lead the Bruins past Cal, 5-2, in the final home game of the season to win the series in front of 1,426 fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The win leaves UCLA at 31-20 on the year and 16-8 in the Pac-10, a mere one game behind Oregon St. in the Pac-10. The Bruins are tied with Arizona St. for second place and will square off against the Sun Devils in Tempe next weekend to close out the regular season.
It's not rare for a freshman to hit a wall, but Plutko has not just avoided hitting a wall, he's excelled down the stretch. He's pitching his best in the latter part of the season and that continued today. The freshman tossed eight innings of three-hit ball, allowing just two runs and walking just one to go along with three strikeouts. The win bumped Plutko up to 6-3 on the season and Nick Vander Tuig finished off freshman Sunday with a scoreless ninth inning for his eighth save of the year.
Sunday was Senior Day for the Bruins and the lone senior to play, Giovinazzo, sure made his last game at Jackie Robinson Stadium count. He picked up three base hits in the lead off spot and scored three times, doing exactly what is needed of a lead off hitter. Dean Espy picked up three hits of his own, scoring a run and driving one in. Cody Keefer added two hits and a RBI, while Pat Valaika moved up to the five-spot in the order and had a hit, walk, run and RBI as part of the 12 hit UCLA performance.
It wasn't the brightest of start for Plutko. He hit the first batter of the ballgame and after a sacrifice bunt, he surrendered a double that scored a run. Before UCLA even had a chance to bat they were already trailing.
UCLA had an answer in the bottom half of the first and it started with a Giovinazzo singled. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second and a ground out moved him to third, giving Keefer the chance to pick up a key two-out hit. That's exactly what he did, driving the first pitch he saw to left for a single to score Giovinazzo and tie the game at one apiece.
The next inning UCLA had their chance to add to their lead with two on and one out, then with the bases loaded and two outs, but they left them there. That wasn't the case in the third when Espy started the frame with a double and scored on Valaika's single. After a single by Gelalich, Trevor Brown singled to score Valaika and the Bruins were ahead 3-1.
Just like the third inning, the Bruins started the fourth with a double. Two batters after Giovinazzo's lead off double, Espy singled through the left side to score Espt and UCLA led 4-1.
After giving up the run in the first, Plutko was cruising. That was until the fifth when he got behind on a 3-1 count and was made to pay for it in the form of a solo homer to right field. Plutko didn't panic though. He retired the next six batters he faced and didn't allow a man to reach second base until he got the hook after the eighth inning.
In the bottom half of that eighth inning, the Bruins added to their lead and again it was Giovinazzo at the center of it all. He led off the inning with a triple and Beau Amaral followed with a RBI single. All Vander Tuig had to do was finish things off in the ninth, which he did, and UCLA were Sunday and series winners.