James Kaprielian toed the rubber in search of his first career save, in his first career road game. The freshman had already walked one run in to cut the UCLA lead to 4-3 and the bases were loaded as 2,715 Baylor fans came to their feet. After a deep breath, Kaprielian came set and delivered a strike. Then he did it again. Ahead 0-2, Kaprielian hurled one last pitch, which was meekly grounded to the catcher and the game was a wrap. Kaprielian had his first career save and UCLA had a 4-3 win in their first road game of 2013.
The game was teed up for Kaprielian by Adam Plutko, who picked up his first win of the season with six innings of one-run ball. It wasn't Plutko's best game as he struggled early on, struck out just two and walked two, but he limited the Bears to five hits and wiggled his way out of trouble repeatedly to get the job done. Ryan Deeter allowed one run in 0.2 innings of work before David Berg threw 1.1 scoreless innings. That set the stage for Kaprielian, who gave up a run and walked two, but struck out three to preserve the win.
The UCLA offense wasn't especially prolific on Friday night, but they were opportunistic, drawing four walks, getting hit by pitches twice and scoring all four runs with two outs. Brian Carroll led the way with a 3-for-4 effort and a RBI to push his batting average to .533 on the season. Shane Zeile was the only other Bruin with multiple hits, picking up a pair of them to go along with a RBI and a run.
Pat Valaika got the Bruins going in the first with a two-out double, which brought up Cody Regis for his first at-bat of the season after being ruled ineligible for the first weekend of year. Regis made his comeback count, knocking a single into left and scoring Valaika to make it three straight games in which the Bruins scored in the first inning.
The Bruins' lead would only last half an inning, though. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out as Plutko struggled to find the plate. But with the Bears threatening a big first inning, Plutko was able to find the plate and limit Baylor to just one sacrifice fly.
Plutko ran into more trouble in the second when a man reached third, but once again, Plutko got the outs he needed to keep the Bears at bay.
That proved key because a half-inning later the Bruins got back on top. Kevin Kramer was hit by a pitch to start the frame and took second on a wild pitch before moving to third. With two outs, Zeile stepped to the plate and laced a single to left, allowing Kramer to score easily and put UCLA back in front at 2-1.
That didn't quite settle down Plutko, who allowed a man to reach third base again in the third inning, but the junior got out of that jam too. A man got into scoring position two inning later, but Plutko did what became the norm for him on this night -- he found a way out unscathed.
While the Baylor offense couldn't crack Plutko, no matter how many chances they got, UCLA's offense took advantage of the few opportunities the Bears gave them. After reaching on a walk, Zeile swiped second with two outs to put a man in scoring position, which set the table for a Carroll RBI single that extended the UCLA lead to 3-1.
An inning later -- and following yet another dicey, but scoreless inning by Plutko -- the Bruins added to their lead again. Filia started the inning with a walk and eventually reached third, an effort that appeared to go for naught when pinch hitter Darrell Miller Jr. struck out with two outs, but it was a wild pitch and got away from the catcher. That allowed Miller to reach on a dropped third strike and Filia to scamper home from third to give UCLA a 4-1 lead.
That last run would prove to be crucial because the Bruins gave the Bears a way back into the game once Plutko exited before the seventh inning. Deeter hit the first man he faced and gave away second on a wild pitch before a balk pushed the runner to third. From there, all it took was a sacrifice fly and the Bruins' lead was one-run slimmer.
Berg wasn't especially sharp in the eighth inning, hitting one and walking another, but he did what Plutko did so well and managed to make the key pitches when he needed them to keep Baylor off of the board. That set up Kaprielian for his first save in less than ideal circumstances.
One thing Kaprielian did have was a one-run cushion, which he used. After a strikeout to start the ninth, the freshman walked one and gave up a single to put the tying run on base. Another strikeout was good for the second inning of the inning and then Kaprielian struck out another Bear to close out the game. Only it didn't close out the game. Strike three went to the backstop, allowing the man to reach and the inning to continue. Kaprielian then walked the next batter to force a run in and cut the UCLA lead to one run, which upped the pressure on the freshman. But Kaprielian was immune to it and did what Plutko and then Berg did all game -- wiggled out of trouble, this time to seal the win.