Nick Vander Tuig looked like a potential first round pick coming out of high school, but then he got injured and had to miss his entire senior season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He went to UCLA still trying to get back from the injury and he showed flashes of the talent that made him a top prospect as the Bruins' closer during his freshman season. On Saturday, though, he put a capper on his comeback. The sophomore made his third career start and was dominant, working a career-high innings as he led UCLA to a 6-2 win over Sacramento St. for the Bruins' fifth consecutive victory.
As brilliant as Vander Tuig was on Saturday, he didn't get off to a great start. The Hornets tagged him for two hits on his first two pitches of the game, but Vander Tuig worked out of it and then went into cruise control. By the time he exited the game after eight innings, the right-hander had struck out seven and walked none with just one unearned run coming across. Shane Zeile had some trouble in the ninth, giving up a run without getting an out, but Ryan Deeter came in to finishing things up and preserve the win for Vander Tuig, who improved to 2-0.
UCLA got some help at the plate from a freshman as Kevin Kramer picked up a couple hits and a couple RBI on the afternoon, as did Trevor Brown. Cody Keefer scored a couple runs and had a hit, which extended his hit streak to 10 games. Tyler Heineman also extended his hit streak to 10 and while Jeff Gelalich did have a RBI, hit hit streak came to an end at nine. Beau Amaral had a hit and scored twice, but more amazingly, he walked for the first time all year in the Bruin win.
The Hornets looked like they would score early when they put men at the corners with none out, but when the man tried to score from third on the next play, Heineman was able to apply the tag at the plate to get the out. From there on, it was all Bruins.
Amaral started off the first with a single and Heineman followed with one of his own before Keefer singled to load the bases. Gelalich followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Amaral, then Brown doubled home Heineman for a 2-0 UCLA lead. Kramer then wrapped up the inning with a ground out to second base, which allowed Keefer to score and the Bruins were in control with a three spot in the first.
An error gifted Sacramento St. a run in the second when Gelalich dropped a ball in right, which allowed the Hornet to take second. A single then scored him, but that is all the visitors would get.
After the game settled at 3-1 in the second, it became a pitchers' duel. Vander Tuig was sitting down Hornet after Hornet and at one point retired 10 straight, while Sacramento St.'s Tanner Mendonca was able to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard again until he exited after six innings.
Once Mendonca's day was done, the Bruins got to work at the plate again. Kevin Williams singled to started the seventh and was followed by a Amaral walk and Heineman sacrifice bunt that put men at second and third with one out. Keefer followed with a hard single to left, scoring Amaral and after a Gelalich walk, the bases were juiced for Brown. It wasn't Brown's best at-bat, as he lifted a fly ball to right that should have resulted in a close play at the plate when Amaral tagged to score, but the Hornets inexplicably cut the throw from right field off an Amaral scored. A Krame single then plated Keefer and the Bruins had their second three-run inning of the game to go up 6-1.
Vander Tuig was at his best in his final inning, striking out a pair in a perfect eighth inning before making way for Zeile in the ninth. The freshman struggled, allowing hits to the first two men he faced and that was all John Savage had to see. He called upon Deeter, who allowed a man to score on a fielder's choice before getting a game-ending double play.
With the series win in the bag, UCLA will go for the sweep on Sunday when they host the Hornets in the series finale at 1 pm PT. Zack Weiss will be on the mound for the Bruins in the contest, while Zach Morgan will get the ball for the Hornets.