Little has gone right at the start of 2013 for Eric Filia. He was put in the leadoff sport and scouts were crawling around the sweet swinging lefty, but he has hit a meager .186 and was dropped down in the order as he struggled to break out of his slump. So when Filia came to the plate with the winning run at second base in the 10th inning on Friday night, he would be forgiven for being short on confidence. But Filia was not at all. He jumped all over the first pitch he saw and knocked it into left field for a walk-off RBI single to deliver UCLA a 2-1 win over Notre Dame and push the Bruins' record to 10-2.
The hope in Westwood is that the game-winning hit could spark a UCLA offense that could use some help. They managed just seven hits on Friday, led by Pat Valaika's two-hit, one RBI effort, while Kevin Kramer extended his hitting streak to six games and scored two runs, including the winning run.
Things started brightly for UCLA, who scored in the first inning thanks to Kramer and Valaika. The two have been at the heart of most of the Bruins' rallies this season and were again on Friday when Kramer walked then scored on Valaika's double into right center.
Staked to an early lead, Adam Plutko settled in and pitched wonderfully. He did not allow a man to reach until the fourth inning against a very good Fighting Irish offense in what was his best start of the season.
But Plutko could only keep Notre Dame off the board for so long and they finally got to him in the fifth. Plutko walked the leadoff man then allowed a bunt single to put two on with nobody out. He battled back to retire the next two, but a two-out single to center scored one and tied the game at 1-1.
Plutko would eventually exit after seven fantastic innings, but he would have to take the no decision. His one-run, four-hit, four-strikeout ball went for naught, but he did keep the Bruins in the game, which would pay dividends in extras.
Zack Weiss entered for Plutko and while he did allow a one-out double in the eighth, that was all the Irish got off of him. He struck out a pair in a comfortable inning and continued to give the Bruins' offense a chance.
UCLA couldn't capitalize on their chances though. They stranded the bases loaded in the sixth and put men on in the next two innings, but couldn't drive in either. In the ninth they put the winning run in scoring position with two outs, but he too was stranded.
Meanwhile, David Berg had entered for the Bruins and was dealing. He threw a comfortable ninth then struck out all three men he faced in the 10th to give the UCLA offense one more chance, and this time they made it count.
Kramer led off the frame with a single up the middle then took second on Valaika's sacrifice bunt. With two outs, the struggling Filia came up, but looked as confident as ever. He knocked the ball through the left side and Kramer came around to score, emptying the UCLA dugout and sending the Bruin faithful home happy.