UCLA may have lost, but they won the Pac-10 title (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
An outright Pac-10 title and Regional host spot. That makes swallowing a loss a whole lot easier and while UCLA did fall to Arizona St., 10-5, to close their regular season, the season finished on a high note. The first good bit of news came right before first pitch as UCLA was announced as a surprise Regional host. The next good bit of news came right after the final pitch as Oregon defeated Oregon St. to clinch UCLA's first outright Pac-10 title since 1986 when the Bruins won the Pac-10 South. With today's loss, UCLA finishes the season 33-22 and 18-9 in the Pac-10, good enough to earn the conference championship trophy.
As bright a day as Sunday may have been in Westwood because of the Pac-10 title and host spot, it wasn't so bright on the field for the team at Packard Stadium in Tempe. Adam Plutko, the freshman who has looked anything but, had his worst start of the season. He lasted just 4.2 innings and gave up a season-high six runs on 11 hits. The bullpen didn't fare much better with Zack Weiss allowing a run in 1.1 innings, Brandon Lodge giving up two runs on four hits in one inning and Scott Griggs giving up a run in his one inning.
The offense wasn't so quiet, even in the loss. They may not have matched the 10 and seven run outputs of Friday and Saturday's games, but they did score five runs on seven hits. Chris Giovinazzo was the only Bruin with multiple hits, picking up a double and triple, scoring twice and driving one in. Trevor Brown picked up two RBI in the game, while Beau Amaral picked up a hit and RBI to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.
For the third time in as many games this series, UCLA scored in the top of the first inning. It started with a triple by Giovinazzo to center. With one out, Dean Espy grounded one to third base, enough for Giovinazzo to score and the Bruins were up 1-0.
Arizona St. had their answer in the third inning. Following a lead off single the Sun Devils picked up a triple of their own. A three bagger down the right field line scored one run and when a fly ball to center followed, the Sun Devils had themselved a sacrifice fly to take a 2-1 lead.
That lead would last until the fifth when UCLA mounted a two-out rally. Jeff Gelalich walked with one out, then with two outs was able to come in and scored on Giovinazzo's double. The Amaral added a two-out hit of his own. His hit streak was extended and Giovinazzo came in to score to put UCLA back on top, 3-2.
The bottom half of the inning was when things went all wrong for Plutko and the Bruins though. It started with a double and with one out, Arizona St. got a RBI single to tie the game up. UCLA got a break when the next man singled, but was overly aggressive and thrown out trying to turn it into a double. Even so, the inning would not go well. A home run followed, putting the Sun Devils up, 5-3. Consecutive singles marked the end of Plutko's day, but things didn't get better when Weiss came in. He walked the first two batters he faced, forcing in a run and putting the Sun Devils in front, 6-3.
UCLA had one chance to get back in the game, but luck was not on their side. All three outs in the sixth inning were hard hit, one all the way to the warning track, but none resulted in hits.
A RBI double in the bottom of the sixth stretched Arizona St.'s lead to 7-3 then a four-hit seventh inning led to two more runs. UCLA tried to get back in it with a two-RBI single by Brown in the eighth, but it wasn't enough. The Sun Devils added one more in the bottom half of the inning to capture the game, 10-5.
Even with the loss, UCLA had themselves a series win, the first series win at Arizona St. by any team since 2008. It was also enough to get the Bruins a Pac-10 title, something they will take with them into next weekend's Regionals, which they will host.