UCLA still struggling to find the right pieces an get everything clicking -- something was isn't unexpected considering the turnover from a year ago -- but they are still coming away with wins, and that was the case again on Friday night. The Bruins hardly wowed anyone at Jackie Robinson Stadium, but they did what they had to do in beating Wright St. 6-3 to improve to 6-2 on the season.
Surprisingly, it was Adam Plutko who led the way with struggles on the night. While he only gave up three runs on four hits and struck out five in six innings, he was hot pretty well all game and didn't work a 1-2-3 inning until his last. But the junior still did enough to pick up the win and improve to 2-0 on the season. The bullpen was brilliant behind Plutko, with Max Schuh retiring his only batter and David Berg striking out to in the ninth to earn his first save of the season, but it was Zack Weiss who really shined. The junior showed none of the command issues that have plagued him in the past in 1.2 perfect innings of a relief, a sign that he could be ready to emerge as a key cog in the Bruins' relief corps.
The strong bullpen work was key for UCLA because the offense went quiet late on in an underwhelming six-hit night. Kevin Kramer picked up half of the Bruins' hits, driving in two and scoring one of his own to lead the way, while Pat Valaika was the source of half of the Bruins' runs thanks to a three-run home run. Brian Carroll typified the offensive night for UCLA, failing to pick up a hit, but scoring twice and driving a run in.
The Bruins could have gone in front early only to leave the bases loaded in the first. But when they got another bases loaded opportunity in the second, they made sure to make it count.
Shane Zeile led off the second with a walk and was followed by a Ty Moore single and Cody Regis walk to load the bases. After a strikeout tempered the threat some, Carroll got the Bruins on the board with a fielder's choice RBI. It could have been an inning-ending double play, but Carroll busted it down to first to beat out the throw and keep the inning going, which proved to be gigantic. That's because Kramer followed with a RBI single to make it 2-0 before Valaika jumped all over the first pitch he saw, launching it out to left for his first homer of the season to give the Bruins a 5-0 lead.
Wright St. answered back with a long ball of their own as Plutko's struggles continues. He allowed a single in the first and a double in the second only to get away unscathed, but that wouldn't be the case in the third. After a leadoff walk, Mark Fowler hit a two-run homer off the top of the wall in left center to cut the Bruins' lead to 5-2.
An inning later, the Raiders struck again. They cashed in a two-out single and stolen base with a RBI base hit back up the middle and all of a sudden UCLA's lead just down to just two runs.
But just when it looked like Wright St. was going to make a game of it, UCLA calmed down and grabbed control. They got a run back in the bottom of the fourth when Kramer singled home Carroll and from that point on the pitching staff put a lock on the game.
Plutko worked a one-hit fifth before tossing a perfect sixth then handed the ball over to the bullpen. Schuh did his job, putting away the left-handed leadoff man in the seventh that he was brought in to get, then Weiss twirled a wonderful 1.2 innings. That set up Berg, who hurled a comfortable ninth inning to earn the Bruins an unimpressive win, but a win nonetheless as they continue to get the victories they need while the young team grows.