Grant Watson gave the Bruins six strong innings (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
UCLA's run of tough games against top 25 teams continued on Tuesday night with Cal St. Fullerton visiting Jackie Robinson and the game played out as one would expect between two teams that play "west coast baseball". The pitching was strong and neither team flashed a lot of power at the plate, instead focusing on stringing together hits and waiting for the other team to blink. On Tuesday, it was the Titans who blinked first and the Bruins, backed by a great pitching performance that limited Fullerton to four hits, took advantage en route to a 4-2 win that pushes their record to 22-7 on the year.
Grant Watson bounced back from his rough Saturday outing, in which he got the hook in the second inning after throwing just 32 pitches, with six excellent frames against Fullerton. The freshman carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowed just two runs on four hits to pick up the win, pushing his record to 7-1 on the campaign. David Berg, Ryan Deeter and Scott Griggs all worked a scoreless inning in relief of Watson to finish off the Titans, with Griggs earning his eighth save of the season for his perfect ninth inning.
The pitching had to be good because the Bruin bats were not firing on all cylinders. UCLA left runners in scoring position in four different innings, but they did enough to get the win. Beau Amaral and Tyler Heineman continued to set the table at the top of the Bruin lineup with a pair of hits each and the bottom of the lineup got involved too, with Pat Valaika scoring one and driving one in, while Cody Regis drove one in of his own.
Amaral and Heineman were quick to jump on the Titans, starting the first inning with consecutive singles. Heineman's base hit allowed Amaral to go from first to third so while Cody Keefer did keep UCLA from a big first inning by hitting into a double play, it was good enough to plate Amaral for a 1-0 UCLA lead.
With Watson cruising, the Bruin offense didn't need to get going, but when the Titans made a fourth inning mistake, they were only too happy to jump on the opportunity. Trevor Brown walked and stole second so when Fullerton became the first team to blink, booting a ball off the bat of Eric Filia-Snyder, Brown came around from second to score. The Titans opened the door with the error and leading 2-0, UCLA treated it like an invitation. Valaika ripped a triple down the left field line to score Filia-Snyder, then Regis lifted one to left that allowed Valaika to tag and score and the Bruins had themselves a 4-0 lead.
Before the fifth inning, Watson looked untouchable. Maybe it was the time he spent sitting on the bench while the Bruin offense put together a rally in the bottom of the fourth or maybe it was something else, but when he went out for the fifth, he didn't look quite as sharp. After getting an out he walked a man on four pitches then gave up consecutive singles. With the bases loaded, Fullerton got their third straight single to score their first run of the game. A sacrifice fly then cut the UCLA lead to 4-2, but with the tying run standing on second, Watson induced the pop up he needed to get out of the inning.
After an easy sixth inning, Watson handed the ball to Berg and he was welcomed by an error that allowed the lead off man to reach. After a fielder's choice and walk put two on with one out, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, Berg got a double play to end the inning with the Bruins still ahead.
Amaral and Heineman reached with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to give UCLA a chance to stretch their lead out, but they couldn't get it done. A one-out double by Brown in the eighth wasn't cashed in either, but it didn't matter because Deeter and Griggs locked things down.
First, Deeter worked a perfect eighth inning with one strikeout, then Griggs matched him in the ninth with a perfect, one strikeout inning of his own and the Bruins were 4-2 winners in a tense, local top 25 showdown..