After splitting the first two games of the series, UCLA topped Baylor 5-4 on Sunday thanks to a ninth inning run to take the key non-conference road series and wrap up a successful weekend in Waco. The win pushes their record to 4-2 on the season and has them sitting pretty with two series wins from two to start the season.
The Bruins isn't going to leave Waco particularly pleased with how they pleased, but they will certainly be happy with the result. They were sloppy at times and didn't hardly at their best, but they did what good teams do -- win even when they are not at their best.
Grant Watson pitched well for much of his start, but ran into trouble in the seventh and exited after 6.2 innings. The southpaw surrendered just three runs on seven hits, a solid performance, and he left in line for the win, but he had to take the no decision. David Berg allowed one run in 1.1 innings to pick up his frist win of the season, while Jame Kaprielian earned his second save with a dominating ninth in which he struck out the side.
The UCLA offense put in its third consecutive less-than-impressive performance with just seven hits, but they did enough to grind out runs. They took advantage of two errors, walked five times and were hit by three pitches to get some offense going without their hitting clicking. Pat Valaika led the way with two hits, one RBI and one run, while Pat Gallagher also had two hits and scored a run. Brian Carroll continued his hot hitting with another hit and two runs score, but the star was Tyler Scott, who picked up a two-RBI single in his first career at-bat.
Early on, the Bruins looked a lot like they did on Saturday, wasting chances left and right. They put two on in the first, but left them and then they left Trent Chatterton on second in the third inning.
But just when it looked like it would be another long game for the UCLA offense, they came through. Valaika reached on an error to start the inning and following a single by Gallagher and walk by Shane Zeile, the Bruins had the bases loaded with one out. That brought up by Christoph Bono, who made his first career start count with a sacrifice fly to left that put the Bruins in front.
The next half-inning, Watson ran into his first trouble of the game when he surrendered a pair of two-out singles, but he got out of the frame with a groundout, extending his scoreless innings streak to 10 innings to start the season.
That set the Bruins up for a big fifth inning, which stated with a Carroll single up the middle. A walk by Kevin Kramer followed, bringing up Valaika, who doubled to left. That brought Carroll around to score and stretched the UCLA lead to 2-0 with the Bruins threatening to add to it. But Gallagher followed with a strikeout and the Bears were an out away from getting out of the inning down just two. That's when John Savage called upon Scott, an odd choice considering the two-sport athlete had zero career at-bats to his name, but Scott repaid his coach's faith. He hit a ball right back up the middle for a single, scoring Kramer and Valaika to give UCLA a 4-0 lead.
Baylor began cutting into the UCLA lead the following inning, though. Watson walked the leadoff man and after a single and sacrifice bunt, the Bears had two men in scoring position. A sacrifice fly to right followed and the Bruins' lead was cut to 4-1.
After a quick sixth inning it looked like Watson was back on track, but he wouldn't make it out of the seventh. A pair of singles and a groundout put men on second and third with two outs and brought Savage out to the mound. The coach spoke with his sophomore, but the chat didn't help Watson. The southpaw gave up a single to the next batter, scoring two and the UCLA lead was down to just one run. That marked the end of Watson's day and in came Berg, who got out of the inning.
Unfortunately, Berg didn't fare as well the next inning. A leadoff single came back to haunt Berg, who then saw the man advance on a groundout before a single to right plated the tying run. A game that was once firmly on UCLA's hands was back up the air, tied 4-4.
Having given up their lead on the road in front of 2,667 fans who were on their feet in the eighth, it would have been easy for UCLA to go away, but they didn't. Instead, they kept the pressure on and watched Baylor fold. Carroll walked to start the ninth, then took second on a passed ball. A sacrifice bunt by Kramer then went awry for the Bears, who threw the ball away and Carroll was just 90 feet away from scoring the tying run, which he did when yet another passed ball went to the backstop. Carroll scampered home and the Bruins were back on top.
That set the stage for Kaprielian, who gave some Bruins a heart attack on Friday when he barely held on for his first career save, but Sunday was a completely different story. Using a good, hard fastball and a devastating breaking ball, the freshman made minced meat of the three Bears he faced, striking out all three to put a ribbon on the Bruins' series win.