Scott Griggs and the UCLA bullpen was superb (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
This weekend did not go the way that UCLA had hoped, but at least it wasn't a complete waste. After losing their first two games of the weekend to Oregon, the Bruins twice came from behind on Saturday to defeat the Ducks, 8-6, and get something out of the weekend. The win pushed UCLA's record to 21-7 on the year and moved them back even with Oregon in second place in the Pac-12 at 8-4, one game behind Arizona.
Eight different Bruins chipped in with a hit at the plate, giving UCLA 12 on the game. Beau Amaral did the job of the leadoff man, picking up two hits, walking once and scoring two, while Tyler Heineman also scored a pair. Cody Keefer had two hits of his own to go along with a RBI and run, joining Jeff Gelalich, Eric Filia-Snyder and Pat Valaika in the one run, one RBI club. Trevor Brown led the way in the RBI department with two.
While it was nice to see the offense get going after two quiet days, UCLA has to wonder what is going on with their starting pitchers. They got poor starts from Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig on Thursday and Friday and Grant Watson added a bad start of his own on Saturday. The freshman lasted just 1.2 innings and while four of the five runs he surrendered were unearned, he was not good at all. On the plus side, Zack Weiss tossed 4.1 innings of one-run ball to put his bout with shoulder soreness behind him. David Berg earned the win and improved to 4-0 on the year with two scoreless innings and Scott Griggs picked up his seventh save with a perfect ninth.
Unlike the first two games of the series, UCLA was first to score on Saturday. Amaral and Heineman led things off with singles and Keefer bunted to put two in scoring position. It looked like the opportunity might be wasted when Gelalich struck out, but Brown pulled a single through the left side to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
That lead would not last long and neither would Watson's day. The southpaw didn't get help from Valaika, who committed an error to start the frame and a double followed to score Oregon's first run. Watson then threw a pick off attempt into center field and a single tied the game at 2-2. A walk and sacrifice bunt pushed runners to second a third, which paid off when a sacrifice fly scored the go-ahead run. The Ducks' second double of the inning then scored one more before a RBI single capped the scoring for the inning. Watson got the hook, but the Ducks had already played five to take a 5-2 lead.
Valaika began to atone for his error when he got the Bruins going with a one-out single in the fourth. Kevin Kramer was hit by a pitch to push him to second, then Kevin Williams laced a base hit to right, allowing Valaika to come around and score.
An inning later, UCLA got even with Oregon. It started with a Heineman walk and after a single by Keefer, the Bruins had men at the corners. Gelalich then singled Heineman home to cut the Ducks' lead to one and after a Shane Zeile hit by pitch loaded the bags, Valaika walked to force in a run and tie things up. With the bases loaded and one out, it looked like UCLA was going to go ahead, but a pair of strikeouts ended the inning with the game still tied.
As quickly as the Bruins tied things, the Ducks took the lead back. A leadoff double, stolen base and groundout was all it took to plate a run and Oregon was back on top, 6-5.
Maybe it was the seventh inning stretch that put the Bruins in a good mood, but they put together a string of good at-bats in the bottom half of the frame. Gelalich started things with a walk, then stole second and took third when nobody covered the throw on the steal. Filia-Snyder then jumped on the first pitch he saw for a RBI single to tie things up. He proceded to steal second before taking third on Valaika's single so when a pitch found the backstop, the freshman was able to scamper home for the go-ahead run.
UCLA added to their lead in the eighth when Amaral started the inning with a walk then scored on Keefer's double to left. From a run down to two runs up in two innings, the Bruins were on the verge of getting something out of the weekend.
The only reason UCLA had a chance to get the win is because of the fantastic work of the bullpen, who worked 7.2 innings of one-run ball. Weiss ate up innings and kept the Bruins before Berg looked calm as can be before handing the ball to Griggs. The junior was dominant, retiring the Ducks in order in the ninth and securing the win for UCLA.