The UCLA offense has given the Bruins plenty of reasons to celebrate (Photo Credit:Scott Wu)
Who would have guessed that the offense would be carrying the UCLA to a possible Pac-12 title and national seed. The team whose offense was so putrid last season and has been led by its pitching for years now are getting it done with the bats and on Tuesday night, the Bruins continued to do what they have been doing all year -- hit the piss out of the ball. They rang up 18 more hits en route to a 12-4 win over Cal St. Northridge at Jackie Robinson Stadium, improving to 25-8 on the season and pushing their team batting average to .317 in the process.
Fresh off of earning NCBWA National Player of the Week Honors for a monster four games last week, Beau Amaral continued with his hot hitting on Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to 19 games.. The junior picked up three hits, including his third home run of the season, to go along with two RBI and two runs scored, but he wasn't the only man to extend his hit streak. Tyler Heineman had a hit to push his streak to 15 games. Pat Valaika added three hits of his own, two RBI and two runs in the contest and Kevin Williams added a trio of hits as well, to go along with two RBI and a run scored. Three three Bruins had multiple hits in the game and in total, nine different players had at least a run or RBI on the evening.
Just as surprising as the offense's explosion this season has been the excellence of the UCLA bullpen and that was on display again against the Matadors. After Grant Watson was roughed up a bit, giving up three runs, two earned, in a short 3.1 inning start, the bullpen combined for 5.2 innings of one run-ball. Zack Oriz threw an inning of scoreles relief after Watson to earn the win and improve to 2-0 on the year, while Chase Brewer retired the only two men he faced. Eric Jaffe, David Berg and Scot Griggs all worked a scoreless frame and Ryan Deeter gave up the bullpen's lone run, but did strike out two in his one inning as the relievers were outstanding once again.
Cal St. Northridge were the quick starters on Tuesday, scoring before the Bruins even got a chance at the dish. A pair of singles started the game and put men at the corners and when UCLA got caught up trying to get the runner in a run down between first and second, the man at third was able to score for the opening run.
The lead did not last long, though, because UCLA had some early offense of their own. Amaral led off the first with a base hit before coming home to score on Cody Keefer's base hit. After Jeff Gelalich reached on a fielder's choice, he stole second and scored on Trevor Brown's single to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Some shoddy play behind the plate allowed the Matadors to get even in the third. With men at first and second, Brown let a ball get away so both runners could advance and then a simple ground ball scored the tying run.
The very next inning, Northridge took the lead and ended Watson's day early. A one-out walk put a man on for the Matadors and when Watson fell behind 3-1 to the next batter, he got roped for a RBI double. That was all John Savage had to see so he went to Ortiz to get out of the frame.
Just like when they fell behind in the first inning, UCLA had a quick response. Brown led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and a one-out single by Pat Valaika put him in scoring position. Pat Gallagher then roped a single to right, scoring Brown and tying the game up. A single by Williams followed, scoring Valaika and the Bruins were back in front.
It looked like Northridge might get even again in the fifth inning when two singles put two men on with only one out in the fifth inning. That meant the end of Ortiz's day and Brewer came in. The right-hander retires the next two batters on just five pitches to keep the Bruins in front, where they would remain for the rest of the game.
Regis smacked a 2-0 pitch into right to lead off the sixith and the Bruins were in business. A bunt single by Valaika moved him to third, meaning Gallagher's fly ball to right was good enough for a sacrifice fly as Regis tagged and scored to make it a 5-3 ballgame.
The seventh inning put the game to bed as the UCLA offense exploded for seven runs. Amaral started it by hitting the first pitch of the inning out to right field for a solo home run. Singles by Heineman and keefer then put men on the corners for Gelallich, who singled a run home to make it 7-3. An error allowed Keefer to score before Valaika doubled hom a pair. Leading 10-3, the Bruins were not done yet. Williams singled home a run to make it 11-3 and bring Amaral up for the second time in the inning. The junior capped off his day with another first pitch hit, this time a single that scored Williams for a 12-3 advantage.
Northridge did push a run across in the eighth, but the game was already decided by then. With the way the offense was humming along, the UCLA bullpen didn't have to be fantastic, but it was and the Bruins picked up yet another win.