Scott Griggs was sensational in saving the game for the Bruins (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
Maybe UCLA can withdraw their bid to host the Regionals and Super Regionals. At this point it might be smarter for them to head out on the road for the postseason. The Bruins are nearly unbeatable away from Jackie Robinson Stadium and proved it again on Saturday, beating Cal 8-5 to improve to 38-13 on the season and 16-9 in the Pac-12, a game and a half behind first place Oregon. Most impressively, the Bruins are now 19-3 away from home on the season.
Tyler Heineman and Pat Valaika missed their second straight game with injuries so the bottom of the UCLA lineup decided that they would go out and lead the way. The bottom three hitters in the Bruins' lineup had seven of the team's 12 hits with Kevin Kramer going 2-for-4 with a hit and a RBI, Matt Giovinazzo going 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run and Kevin Williams picking up two base hits. Trevor Brown held things down in the middle of the lineup with two hits, two runs and a RBI, while Beau Amaral got things done at the top with two runs and a RBI, but it was the bottom of the order that really shined.
Scott Griggs shined on the mound for the Bruins, coming in to get a crucial out in the eighth and cruising through the ninth to earn his 14 save of the season. Nick Vander Tuig didn't open any eyes in his start, but that's not his M.O. The sophomore has made a habit of doing just enough to get the Bruins the win and that's exactly what he did on Saturday, allowing three runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings to get the win and improve to 8-3 on the season. Grant Watson got two outs in relief and David Berg finally showed signs of mortality, giving up two runs in 1.2 innings before Eric Jaffe and Ryan Deeter failed to record an out, but Griggs was there to seal things up at the end.
UCLA struck early and before Cal even got a chance to bat for the first time in the game, the Bruins already led 4-0. Amaral and Jeff Gelalich each reached via hit by pitches, but there were two outs so it looked like the Bruins might not get anything in the frame, but then Brown singled home Amaral. Shane Zeile added a single of his own to score Gelalich and then Kramer and Giovinazzo each drove runs in with singles. Two outs, four singles, four runs and UCLA had a commanding early lead.
Down four, Cal was in trouble, but they did their best to get back in the game an inning later. A single and double with one out put two in scoring position for the Bears and those runs were cashed in on a groundout and single. UCLA still led, but Cal had begun to chip away.
That chipping away seemed hollow a half-inning later, though, because UCLA added to their lead and knocked Cal's Justin Jones from the game. A single by Brown and error by the Bears put two Bruins in scoring position, which Giovinazzo made count with a single up the middle that scored both for a 6-2 Bruin lead. Giovinazzo continued to be a pest to Cal, stealing second before the Golden Bears pulled Jones. He then took third so a sacrifice fly by Amaral was able to score him and the Bruins led by five.
That lead would stretch to six in the sixth when Amaral was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Brian Carroll simply bunted him to second and Cody Keefer followed with a single to score him as the Bruins extended their lead to 8-2.
Vander Tuig was never dominant or even looked to be cruising, as he was last week, but he rarely is. He just eats up innings and waits for the offense to come around, which it did. A one-out double finally did him in in the sixth inning as John Savage brought the hook, but he had done his job. Although Watson did allow that runner to score, he exited with the Bruins up 8-3.
That five-run lead almost didn't seem to be big enough in the eighth inning. Three consecutive singles to start the inning scored a run for Cal and led to Berg's exit, but Jaffe didn't do any better. He walked the two men he faced to load the bases before Deeter entered and issued a walk to force a run in. UCLA's lead was down to 8-5 and the go-ahead run was coming to the plate in the form of Mitch Delfino, Cal's leading hitter. Savage went to his closer, Griggs, to face Delfino and the junior made Savage look like a genius. Griggs overpowered Delfino to strike him out and end the inning.
Griggs put a nice tidy bow on things in the ninth with a couple easy outs and then a strikeout. Another road game, another win for the Bruins.