Pitching depth was supposed to be UCLA's strength in 2013, but it didn't look it on Friday in their season opener. The Bruins' bullpen was tagged for four runs in the 10th inning as Minnesota completed their comeback to down UCLA 6-2 at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Season openers haven't been kind to the Bruins the last two seasons. A year ago they lost the opener and then their first series of the season to Maryland before bouncing back and eventually making the College World Series.
Adam Plutko did his job to help the Bruins pick up the win, allowing just two runs on seven hits in 6.2 innings while striking out six and walking just one, but he had to settle for a no decision. Hunter Virant made his collegiate debut, but didn't retire a batter and Ryan Deeter erased the only batter he faced before David Berg looked every bit as unhittable as he did last season in two perfect innings. Cody Poteet ended up being tagged with the loss after giving up three runs, two earned, in a tough collegiate debut before Max Schuh and Zack Weiss each got an out.
Offensively, there wasn't a ton to get excited about for a UCLA team that totaled just six hits. Kevin Kramer let the way with a 2-for-4 effort, adding two RBI to his line, while Brian Carroll had two hits and a run scored. Freshman Trent Chatterton scored the Bruins' only other run on the night.
UCLA got their first chance of the game in the second when Darrell Miller Jr. walked with two out and Ty Moore reached on an error, putting the freshmen on the corners, but Chatterton grounded out to end the frame.
Plutko ran into his first jam of the game in the fourth, but he showed his poise in working out of it. After surrendering a double and single that put men on the corners with one out, Plutko faked to third and threw to first for a pick off then struck out the next batter to get out of the fourth unscathed.
The Bruins wasted another chance to score in the fourth, leaving Pat Valaika on base after he singled to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second and Miller walked with two outs to put two men on, but Moore hit into a fielder's choice to keep the game scoreless.
But UCLA finally broke through the following inning, not coincidentally right after the Gophers' ace Tom Windle exited the game. Chatterton was hit by a pitch and so was Carroll, putting two men on base for Kramer. The sophomore with high expectations in 2013 then showed exactly why so many are high on him, ripping a double into the right-center gap to scored Chatterton and Carroll for a 2-0 UCLA lead. The Bruins had a chance to add to that lead when Kramer took third on a wild pitch, but a foul out and line out left Kramer stranded at third.
Plutko was cruising heading into the seventh inning, but John Savage had men up in the bullpen ready to relieve the junior. Unfortunately for UCLA, Savage didn't go to them until it was too late. A single and a double started the inning, scoring the Gophers' first run and putting the tying run in scoring position. That prompted Savage to visit the mound, but he chose to leave Plutko in the game, trusting his ace as he did so many times last season with great success. But this time it didn't go so well as a fly out allowed the runner to tag and take third before a two-out infield single scored the tying run.
UCLA had the chance to go in front in the eighth, but they couldn't cash in the opportunity. A walk by Shane Zeile and single by Chris Keck put men at the corners for pinch hitter Pat Gallagher, who hit a hard ground ball back up the middle. Zeile broke for home on contact, but the ball hit the pitcher's foot and gave the pitcher time to grab it, throw home and get Zeile trying to score. A walk then loaded the bases and gave UCLA another chance with two out, but after a long at-bat that saw him foul off several pitches and force a full count, Chatterton watched strike three to end the inning.
With Berg on the mound in the eighth and ninth, the Bruins were never in danger of giving up any runs. Last season's freshman sensation looked every bit as good as he did a year ago in two perfect innings, but when he turned the ball over to the rest of the relief corps in the 10th, things didn't go nearly as well.
Poteet's collegiate career got off to an ominous start when an error by Kramer allowed the leadoff man to reach before a perfect bunt put two on with nobody out. Poteet struck out the next man, but a single scored a run and the Gophers were in front. That was the end of the day for Poteet, who made way for Schuh, who got a groundout, but that was the only batter he would face. Weiss entered for him and the junior showed some of the command problems that plagued him a year ago. He got behind batters and didn't hit his spots, which led to a pair of doubles that scored three runs and put Minnesota up 6-2 heading to the bottom of the 10th.
The Bruins did their best to mount a rally in the 10th, getting Zeile and Keck on to start the inning, but their rally was quickly killed. Brenton Allen struck out before Moore hit into a game-ending 1-6-3 double play as UCLA slumped to their second opening day loss in as many year.