Jeff Gelalich hit two homers as the Bruin offense exploded on Tuesday (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
Remember the UCLA offense that went missing over the weekend? It has been found and then some. Of course, it helps to play a bad team, but the Bruins are going to take what they can get and they took all they could get on Tuesday against Cal St. Northridge. UCLA pounded out 16 hits and hit their first three home runs of the season on an afternoon in which eight different players picked up RBI and four had at least three RBI. The result was almost three times as many runs in nine innings against the Matadors than they had in their first three games of the weekend combined and a 19-7 victory that pushes UCLA's record to 2-2 on the young season.
To lead the Bruins' offense on a day that everyone hit takes some doing, which makes Jeff Gelalich and Trevor Brown's afternoons all the more impressive. Gelalich hit two home runs at Matador Field as part of a 2-4, three RBI, three run effort in which he also walked twice, while Brown picked up a pair of his of his own, a walk, a run scored and most impressively, a team-leading four RBI. Pat Valaika chimed in with three hits and four runs scored of his own, while Shane Zeile also picked up three hits and Cody Keefer and Heineman each added three RBI, with Heineman also adding a home run. The real indicator of how good the Bruins were on the afternoon was Cody Regis, though. The junior was the only Bruin not to pick up a hit, leaving him at the bottom of the heap of Bruins, but he still walked three times and scored three times. Not such a bad "worst" for the day.
On the mound, the Bruins suffered from some of the winds that the offense benefitted from. With the wind blowing out, it was tough to keep the ball in the yard and when pitchers struggle to throw strikes or keep the ball down in the zone, it gets nearly impossible. Freshman Grant Watson got his first career start after an impressive weekend out of the bullpen, but he surrendered four runs in three innings. Zack Ortiz got his first collegiate appearance and gave up three runs, but all of them were unearned in his two innings of work. After that, David Berg, Ryan Deeter and Scott Griggs combined to keep the Matadors off the board and get Ortiz the win.
As much work as the scoreboard got on Tuesday, it actually took until the third inning before it was asked to get going. That is when Heineman turned on a 1-0 pitch and launched one out to right field for his first career home run and a two-run Bruin lead. The Bruins weren't done, though, as three walks (one intentional) loaded up the basis for Brown, who hit one to the wall in deep right-center for a bases clearing triple that put UCLA in front, 5-0.
It didn't take long before Watson gave some of those runs back, but the defense stepped up behind him and limited the damage. A walk and two singles loaded up the basis and another single followed, scoring one and keeping three men on. That's when Watson got a ground ball and his defense turned a double play behind him to get the first two outs of the inning. Another run scored on the play to make it 5-2, but the two outs were key. Watson got some more defensive help when the next batter lifted a fly ball to left-center, but Beau Amaral was able to track it down and make a fine catch to end the inning and keep another run off the board.
The top of the fourth brought more runs for the Bruins. Valaika led off the frame with a double and after he tagged to take third, Heineman's fly ball to deep right scored him to make it a 6-2 ballgame. Keefer then hit a single to center that skipped past the centerfielder for a three-base error that allowed him to come all the way around and score. After a Regis walk, Shane Zeile picked up his first collegiate hit when he doubled home Regis and the Bruins were ahead 8-2.
Watson might have gotten some defensive help in the third, but he didn't get it in the fourth. After a walk and single, the Matadors hit a grounder to Valaika at short that could have been a double play, but the sophomore booted it and everyone was safe. A two-RBI single later and Watson's day was done with the UCLA lead cut to 8-4 and two on with none out. Ortiz came in for him and on his second pitch induced a sharp grounder to third. Regis grabbed it, stepped on third, threw to second for the second out and Kevin Kramer got the ball to first just a hair late to miss on the triple play. Then, the umpire ruled the batter out at first due to runner's interference at second base and the Bruins had themselves the unusual 5-4 triple play.
Gelalich hit his first homer of the game in the fifth, but it was the three spot that the Matadors put up on Ortiz with the help of Regis error that made it a 9-7 ballgame.
With the game back up in the balance again, the Bruin offense turned it on. A run in the seventh on a Brown sacrifice fly stretched the UCLA lead to 10-7, but that was only a precursor to the Bruins' big eighth.
Valaika started the eighth with a single and Amaral followed with a single of his own before Heineman was hit by a pitch to load up the bases. Keefer then ripped a double down the right field line, clearing the bases and making it 13-7. A wild pitch scored Keefer to tack on another run then Gelalich's second home run fo the game, this time a two-run shot, made it 16-7. Three consecutive doubles then added two more runs to the Bruins' lead before a Amaral sacrifice fly finally brought the nine-run inning to a close with UCLA holding a 19-7 lead.
UCLA had no trouble closing the game out from there and when Griggs retired the final batter of the game in the ninth, the Bruins had themselves the big win they were hoping for against an inferior squad. Now they will see if they can take the momentum from Tuesday into Friday when the #25 Baylor Bears visit Jackie Robinson Stadium in the Bruins' first big series of the season.