Adam Plutko was utterly dominant (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
The UCLA pitching staff was supposed in for a tough weekend against a potent Purdue offense, but in game one of the Saturday's doubleheader, Adam Plutko didn't break a sweat. The Bruins' ace retired the first 16 batters he faced in an utterly dominant outing to lead UCLA to a 5-1 win over the Boilermakers in the opening game of a munch-anticipated series with national implications.
Plutko was fantastic from the very start, striking out the first batter of the game and keeping that going into the ninth inning. He allowed just two hits in 8.1 innings, allowing just one run and striking out seven without walking a single batter. Most impressive, though, was how efficient Plutko was. The sophomore threw just 82 pitches in the first eight innings and just 93 in the game before handing the ball to David Berg for the final two outs.
Especially in the early going, Plutko had to be great because the Bruin offense was slow to start, but they got things going in the middle innings and eventually totaled 10 hits. Beau Amaral and Kevin Williams led the way with a pair of hits, a RBI and a run apiece, while Trevor Brown had the big blast of the game with his third home run of the season. Pat Valaika added two hits of his own and Cody Keefer drove in a pair in a balanced offensive effort as the Bruins grabbed the key first game.
UCLA put men on in each of the first two innings, but couldn't do anything about it. Finally in the fourth, Brown got the Bruins on the board. The junior got ahead in the count, 2-0, then jumped on a fastball. It wasn't the longest of home runs as it just barely cleared the fence in left, but it got out and that's all that matters.
An inning later, the Bruins got some breathing room. Kevin Williams laid down a good bunt on the first pitch of the inning to get a man on, then Amaral was hit by a pitch. After Tyler Heineman got a sacrifice bunt down, Keefer laced a double into left center that easily score Williams and Amaral for a 3-0 UCLA lead.
While the Bruin offense sputtered, then finally got going, Plutko was on cruise control. He was sitting down Boilermakers left and right, working efficiently and keeping Purdue from getting a single base runner, let alone a run. Purdue did finally break up Plutko's bid for a perfect game with one out in the sixth, though, hitting one up the middle that just got through the infield for the Boilermakers' first base runner.
Despite finally allowing a base runner, Plutko was not bothered. He proceeded to retire the next eight batters he faced, keeping Purdue to just one base runner through eight innings.
Plutko got some more support int he bottom half of the eighth inning, too. Valaika and Kevin Kramer reached to put two on with one out before Williams pulled a single through the right side. Valaika scored on Williams' base hit, then Amaral added a single of his own to score Kramer and UCLA had a 5-0 lead.
Having thrown just 82 pitches, Plutko was always going to start the ninth, but he wasn't quite as sharp as he was in the first two frames. He hit the first man he faced, then after getting his seventh strikeout, surrendered a base hit. That marked the end of his day as he exited to a well-deserved ovation. Plutko had done his job, not just getting outs, but keeping the bullpen fresh for game two of the doubleheader. Berg needed just five pitches to pick up the final two outs and finish up a good win for UCLA.