UCLA Starts Strong, Finishes Stronger In 9-3 Win Over Baylor

Jeff Gelalich hit his third homer of the year in the UCLA win (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)

Nothing went right for UCLA on Friday night. They were completely manhandled by Baylor and saw their record drop below .500, but good teams are measured by how they handle tough times. On Saturday, they handled everything just fine. The offense had a big day against a Bears pitching staff that had been nearly unhittable all season and the bullpen locked things down late as the Bruins bounced back from Friday's defeat in a big way to hand Baylor their first loss of the season, 9-3.

The Bruins' nine runs and 12 hits will draw headlines, but most impressive was the discipline that they showed at the dish. UCLA went down on strikes just twice all game, while walking eight times to keep consistent pressure on the Baylor pitchers. Beau Amaral looked like he broke out of his early season slump with three hits, two RBI and two runs, while Cody Keefer added two RBI of his own. Meanwhile, Jeff Gelalich continued to emerge as the big power bat in the UCLA lineup with his third home run in as many games as part of a 2-3, two RBI effort that also included a pair of walks as the Bears pitched around him.

On the mound, it was the bullpen that shone on for the second consecutive Saturday. Nick Vander Tuig tossed a solid 5.2 innings, allowed three runs on five hits and striking out four before the relievers locked things down behind him. David Berg inherited a couple runners when he entered and got out of the jam as part of his 1.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit ball. Ryan Deeter struck out a pair in his one inning of work and Scott Griggs put a bow on things with a scoreless ninth.

It was actually the Bears who jumped out to the early lead. A single, walk and hit by pitch got Vander Tuig into trouble with just one out in the first. The right-hander then got a ground ball to shortstop that could have been an inning-ending double play, but Pat Valaika rolled his ankle and fell to the dirt as a man came across to score without an out made. Vander Tuig was able to get a fly out and ground out to end the frame, but the Bears were up, 1-0.

UCLA had a quick answer for Baylor, though. Amaral led things off with a single and Tyler Heineman added one of his own to put men at the corners. Keefer then hit into a fielder's choice that erased Heineman at second, but Amaral scored on the play and the game was all even again, not that it would be even for long. Gelalich gave the Bruins the lead just one batter later when he jumped all over a 3-1 pitch and hit it way out to right-center for his third round round-tripper of the campaign.

Vander Tuig settled down in the second and third innings, but the Bears got to him in the fourth. Baylor got a single and walk to start the inning and while Heineman continued his fantastic defensive play when he threw out the lead runner on a double steal, it didn't hold the Bears. The third strike to the next batter bounced well in front of the plate and then to the backstop, allowing the man to reach before a walk loaded the bags. All it took then was a base hit and two runs came home to even the game at 3-3.

The Bruin bullpen would finally be called upon in the sixth inning and it wasn't in the easiest of situations. With two men on and two out, Vander Tuig made his exit and Berg came in. The freshman showed no nerves, though, even once the count went to 3-2 as he got a fly ball to end the frame and keep the game tied.

That tie game lasted until the sixth, but that's when the Bruins broke the game wide open with a big inning. Brian Carroll pinch hit with one out and walked before stealing second to put a man in scoring position. Valaika followed with a single through the left side and not only did Carroll score to give UCLA the lead, but Valaika was able to take second on the play. The Bruins then put on a bunting clinic as Kevin Williams laid down a perfect one for a single, only to be followed by an even better bunt by Amaral that scored Valaika and put two men on with still only one out. Heineman was then able to dump one into left for a RBI double that made it a 6-3 ballgame and Keefer hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in center to make it 7-3. Finally, a passed ball scored Heineman and by the time the Bruins were retired in the sixth they had batted around and scored five to give themselves an 8-3 advantage.

Berg had a bit of trouble in the seventh, but a double play helped him get out of danger and the a RBI double by Amaral in the seventh just gave the bullpen a little bit more of a cushion. Deeter had no problem with the eighth and while Griggs to fight some control issues in the ninth, he got through it without a run across as the Bruins evened up the series at a game apiece with a convincing six-run victory over the previously undefeated Bears.

UCLA's win sets the stage for a Sunday rubber game with a key series win on the line. Zack Weiss will go the bump for the Bruins, while the Bears will counter with Brad Kuntz in a 1 pm PT game at Jackie Robinson Stadium

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