The beauty of baseball is that there are no certainties, but Trevor Bauer is doing his best to challenge that rule. Just about every time he takes to the mound, UCLA knows they are going to get a great start from him and with the Bruins in an elimination game against Fresno St. on Saturday, they got a great start. The junior threw his ninth consecutive complete game and set a new Pac-10 record for strikeouts in a season with 203 to lead UCLA past Fresno St., 3-1, keeping their season alive and ending the Bulldogs'.
Against the big-hitting Bulldogs, Bauer was always going to be in for a tough game, but he sure didn't make it look tough. He flashed a fastball that reached 96 mph and always had his go-to curveball to keep the Fresno St. off-balance while working in his three other pitches as well. The result was a complete game in which he struck out 14 and walked just two. Fresno St. managed just six hits against Bauer and one run as the junior improved to 13-2 on the season.
The middle of the lineup did the bulk of the damage for the UCLA offense with the three through seven batters picking up nine of the Bruins' 11 hits. Cody Keefer led the way with a two hit, one walk effort in which he scored a run and drove one in. Trevor Brown also had two hits and drove a run in, while Dean Espy and Jeff Gelalich chipped in with two hits apiece as well. The best news for the Bruins may have been their tremendous defense though, which was solid from the first pitch until the last.
Chris Giovinazzo started the Bruins off with an out, but it was a hard out that certainly set a ton for the offense. He laced a ball deep to right that forced the right fielder to go all the way to the wall for the catch. Beau Amaral followed with a hard single to left before Espy hit a double all the way to the wall in left center, scoring Amaral to put the Bruins up 1-0. It could have been more for UCLA in the inning, but a curious decision kept them from adding to their lead. Despite all four batters having hit the ball hard, the Bruins tried a safety squeeze with Pat Valaika, resulting in an out at the plate and slowing the UCLA momentum.
A lead off walk in the third was the Bulldogs' first base runner, but he never made it past second base after a sacrifice bunt. A lead off double in the fourth was the first hit Bauer allowed, but he retired the next three to end the Bulldogs' threat again.
Singles by Valaika and Gelalich started the bottom half of the fourth and paid off after Brown was able to bunt the two over. From there all it took was a Cody Regis ground out to score Valaika for a 2-0 UCLA lead.
UCLA had the chance to add to their lead in the fifth, but they let the opportunity get away from them. Amaral was hit by a pitch and Espy singled to put two on with just one out. A ground out moved each up 90 feet, but opened first base so the Bulldogs intentionally walked Valaika. With the bases loaded and a chance to blow the game open, all the Bruins got was a fly out to left, stranding three and keeping the Bulldogs in the game.
The sixth inning started fortunately for Fresno when a slow grounder just squeezed inside of third base and rolled down the line for a lead off double. That's all the opening they needed and a single followed to score the first run of the ballgame for the Bulldogs. Bauer walked the next batter and all of a sudden, the Bruins were in trouble with just a 2-1 lead, two on and none out. Bauer showed no fear though, coming right back with a strikeout and then getting a pop up for two outs. He did forget about the base runners so they were able to easily pull off a double steal on him, but even with two in scoring position, Bauer for a groundout to end the frame.
A two-out mini-rally gave UCLA the chance to get that run back in the bottom of the inning, but they couldn't take advantage. Consecutive two-out walks opened the door, but a strikeout closed it.
The Bruins were able to take advantage of an opportunity with two outs in the seventh though. Singles by Keefer and Gelalich put two on with two out for Brown, who pulled a grounder through the left side to score Keefer.
Staked to a 3-1 lead, Bauer gave up a lead off single, but then brought the hammer down on Fresno St. and the Pac-10 single-season strikeout record. One strikeout, two strikeouts, three strikeouts. Bauer put three down in order by way of strikes, giving the Bruins momentum and him a new Pac-10 record with 203 strikeouts, one more than Mark Prior in 2001.
A one-out double to right in the ninth may have put a scare in some of the Bruin fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium, but Bauer never panicked. He got the next two batters with ease, finishing off the Bulldogs and possibly a sensational collegiate career with yet another dominating performance.
While Fresno St.'s season is over, UCLA lives to play again on Sunday at 2 pm PDT against the loser of Saturday night's game between UC Irvine and San Francisco. if the Bruins win on Sunday at 2 pm PDT, they will play again at 6 pm PDT.