The UCLA offense came on late to beat Irvine (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
UCLA's offense isn't loaded with power so it relies on being good from the top of the lineup to the bottom, working counts, running the bases aggressively and making the opposition work. Doing that wears on opponents so while the Bruins might not get runs early on, they often get them laters on in games. On Tuesday, that is exactly what happened as UCLA finished the game with seven unanswered runs to come from behind and beat UC Irvine, 9-3, pushing their record to 27-10 on the year.
The top of the Bruin lineup was predictably stout, with each of the top five hitters picking up at least one hit. Jeff Gelalich led the way with three hits, a RBI and a run. Beau Amaral added two hits, two RBI and a run scores, while Cody Keefer had two hits of his own to go along with two runs and a RBI. Kevin Kramer returned to the starting lineup with two hits, a run and a RBI, while Kevin Williams scored twice to help Kramer anchor the bottom half of the lineup.
It wasn't Grant Watson's best day on the mound and he lasted just four innings, but he kept the Bruins around. The freshman allowed five hits, walked two and only struck out one, but only two of his three runs were earned. Zack Weiss earned the win for his one inning of work and he was backed up by Chase Brewer, David Berg, Ryan Deeter and Scott Griggs, who each threw a scoreless frame.
UCLA was playing from behind from the very start. Consecutive singles started the game for the Anteaters and a sacrifice moved them up 90 feet so when the next man singles, two runs came across for an early 2-0 UCI lead.
A walk and single in the first inning gave the Bruins a chance to get even right away, but it would take them until the second inning to put the scoreboard to work. The runs came with two outs, when Kramer singles and Williams was hit by a pitch. That brought up Amaral, who hit what should have been a RBI single, but it was misplayed and went for a two-RBI triple that evened the game at 2-2.
For all of the good that Kramer did at the plate, and he did make a couple fine defensive plays too, he gave the Anteaters a run in the fourth. The leadoff man hit a comebacker that went off Watson's glove and into foul territory. Kramer had no chance to get the man at first, but tried anyways, throwing it away and allowing the man to take second. A sacrifice bunt and fly ball were all it took from there and the Anteaters were back in front, 3-2.
When UCLA did get even and then in front, it was the bunt game, not the big bats that got it done. Williams and Amaral each got down bunt singles to start then inning, then when Valaika put down a sacrifice bunt, Irvine threw it away. That allowed Williams to score and put men on the corners. Keefer then grounded to shortstop, scoring Amaral, but a throwing error on that play allowed Valaika to score too and the Bruins held a 5-3 lead. A single by Gelalich moved Keefer to third so when Cody Regis flied to center, Keefer was able to take and score to complete the four-run inning.
Two innings later, the Bruins stretched their lead, partly because they just stood there. Singles by Valaika and Keefer set up Gelalich, who singled home a run that make it a 7-3 ballgame. After Brown singles to load up the bases, Shane Zeile and Kramer were each hit by pitches, forcing two runs in as UCLA grabbed a 9-3 advantage.
Once Watson handed the ball to the bullpen after four inning the Anteater offense was shut down. Weiss, Brewer, Berg and Deeter had an easy time of it before Griggs shut the door by striking out all three batters in the ninth for the Bruins' 14th consecutive non-conference win.