Kevin Williams handed the Bruins a walk-off win (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
#9 UCLA was down 5-0 against arguably the Pac-12's best pitcher, their ace had just been hit hard and they were going up against #11 Arizona St. It looked like the Bruins' 11-game win streak was going to come to a end, but then they got a little help from the Sun Devils and a string of singles for a five-run inning and the game was all even. That set the stage for Kevin Williams in the ninth, who ended the ballgame with one swing of the bat. The sophomore launched a 1-2 pitch out to right for a walk-off home run and 6-5 win, the Bruins' 12th straight, in their Pac-12 opener.
Five different Bruins picked up multiple hits in the game, with Jeff Gelalich leading the way with two RBI. He and Tyler Heineman each reached base safely for the 16th time in 17 games this season and both also scored a run in the contest. Williams scored two runs in the game, along with his game-winning homer, which was his second career home run and second in as many games.
It wasn't the best of games on the mound for Adam Plutko. The sophomore allowed five runs in 7.1 innings, with all the runs coming in the third inning. He did bounce back after giving up the five-spot, though, retiring 14 consecutive Sun Devils before giving up a single in the eighth and getting the hook. Grant Watson worked a perfect inning in relief of Plutko before David Berg retired the two batters he faced to pick up the victory and improve to 2-0 on the campaign.
Neither team mustered anything that resembled an offense in the first two innings, but then the Sun Devils got to Plutko in the third. A one-out walk was followed by a drive double that put two men in scoring position. That brought up Deven Marrero, who roped a triple to right-center that scored a pair and put ASU in front, 2-0. A two-out walk later, the Sun Devils made it 5-0 when Trever Allen yanked one down the left field line and out for a three-run homer and it looked like Arizona St. was going to go into cruise control.
Brady Rodgers might be the best pitcher in the Pac-12 and he lived up to the billing early on. He was sitting down Bruins left and right, impressing the gaggle of scouts who showed up to watch the junior. With Rodgers cruising, UCLA's offensive prospects were dim. They hadn't even hit the ball particularly hard against the right-hander, but they finally broke through in the sixth.
An error allowed Kevin Kramer to reach to start off the inning and a Williams single put men on the corners with nobody out. That's when Beau Amaral picked up a RBI single to get on the Bruins on the scoreboard. A single by Heineman then loaded up the bases before a Cody Keefer groundout scored a run to make it a 5-2 ballgame. Gelalich followed it up with a single of his own, scoring Amaral and Heineman to cut the Sun Devils' lead to one. A single by Trevor Brown pushed Gelalich to third before Regis even things up with a single that scored Gelalich. The Bruins got to Rodgers and the game was tied at 5-5 with three innings to play.
After his rough third inning, Plutko just barely survived the fourth when two long fly balls were chased down at the warning track. It didn't look good for the right-hander, but that proved to be the start of a great run in which he shut down Arizona St. 14 consecutive outs later, UCLA had tied the game up and the Bruins had a shot again.
A one-out single in the eighth ended Plutko's run of outs and his day as Watson came on for him. The freshman quickly got a fly out then picked the runner off first, ending the eighth inning. Watson and Berg then combined to sit the Sun Devils down in the ninth, bringing up UCLA in the bottom half of the frame with the chance to break the tie and win it.
Rodgers made way for the hard-throwing Jake Barrett in the ninth and it looked like a good move as the first two Bruins went down in the inning. Williams then fell behind 1-2 in the count and Barrett looked in complete command. That's when Williams got a hold of a pitch, lifting up and out to right field. The Bruins came spilling out of the dugout to meet the sophomore at the plate as he touched home, handing UCLA an unlikely win in their Pac-12 opener and their 12th consecutive.
The Bruins and Sun Devils will return to action on Saturday at 2 pm PT, assuming the rain stays away, which looks unlikely. Nick Vander Tuig will be on the bump for UCLA if there is a game, while Arizona St. counters with Trevor Williams.