If you can't beat USC, let them beat themselves. That seems to be the plan for UCLA this weekend. The Bruins have struggled to string together hits, to keep Trojans off the bases and even handed them a lifeline late, but with the game tied in the ninth inning, USC handed the Bruins a win. On Saturday, the Trojans issued a bases loaded, four-pitch, walk-off walk as UCLA claimed a 6-5 win on the day, their 18th win in their last 23 against SC and a spot just a half-game behind first place Arizona in the Pac-12.
After a quiet Friday night, the UCLA offense woke up some on Saturday, totaling 11 hits and walking seven times to keep the pressure on USC all afternoon. Cody Keefer led the way with four hits, two runs and a RBI, while Beau Amaral and Trevor Brown each had two hits of their own. Cody Regis was hitless in the contest, but he did walked three times and Jeff Gelalich had a triple and two RBI.
As is his M.O., Nick Vander Tuig was unspectacular, but good enough to keep the Bruins in the ballgame. The sophomore gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits in six innings. Mr. Everyday David Berg tossed an easy 1-2-3 inning and Ryan Deeter got the Bruins through the eighth. Scott Griggs blew the gave by giving up a run in the ninth, but he earned the win when the Bruins came back in the bottom half of the inning to improve to 2-1 on the year.
A rather dull start to the game livened up in the third when USC put the scoreboard to work. Amaral dropped a fly ball in center to start the inning and after a one-out single put men on the corners, a sacrifice fly scored the first run of the game. UCLA appealed the sacrifice fly, claiming that the base runner left third base before Keefer caught the ball in left, the umpire incorrectly ruled that he did not leave early so the Trojans had themselves a lead.
The umpires had no hand in USC's second run. Alex Sherrod just blasted one way over the fence in right field to lead off the fourth inning and the Trojans had a 2-0 lead.
The USC offense wasn't going to stop either and in the fifth they doubled their lead. A single and double put two men in scoring position in the fifth before a RBI single and groundout scored the pair to make it a 4-0 ballgame.
As UCLA came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, they looked completely listless, but they finally woke up. Amaral led off with a base hit and a one-out single by Cody Keefer put men on the corners. Gelalich then took a first pitch ball before jumping all over one and lining a shot over the centerfielder's head. The ball one-hopped the wall, scoring Amaral easily and allowing Keefer to race around from first to score as well on a triple. Trevor Brown followed that up with a groundout to shortstop, which allowed Gelalich to score, and the Trojans' lead was down to just 4-3.
That lead would be gone the very next inning. Regis led off the inning with a walk and Chris Keck followed with one of his own. After a one-out walk by Amaral, the Bruins had the bases loaded for Tyler Heineman. The junior hit a hot shot, but to shortstop that looked like a double play ball. Heineman busted it down to first, though, and barely beat out the would-be inning-ending double play. Regis came home to score from third on the play and UCLA had tied things up. Keefer then followed with a grounder that found a hole on the right side to play pinch-runner Brian Carroll and the Bruins had themselves their first lead of the ballgame.
That lead would last until the ninth inning, but Griggs couldn't make it stick. The lead off man walked and a sacrifice bunt moved him to second. After a single put men on the corners, the Bruins almost turned a great game-ending double play, but the man barely beat it out at first and the tying run scored.
With their lead gone, UCLA had to get their offense going for the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Keefer came to the plate and quickly saw two strikes fly by him, but then he ripped a double to left and the rally was on. After an intentional walk to Gelalich, Brown singled and the bases were loaded. All Pat Valaika had to do was lift a fly ball deep enough for Keefer to tag, but he couldn't do it and instead struck out. That brought up Regis with two outs and in need of a hit, only he didn't need a hit. Instead he just had to watch four pitches go by and take his walk, forcing Keefer in from third for another UCLA win over USC.
The win, along with Oregon's loss to Oregon St. earlier in the day, moved the Bruins even with the Ducks and just a half-game behind first place Arizona in the Pac-12. The Wildcats are in action on Saturday night and if they lose, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona will head to the final day of the regular season all tied for first in the conference.