On Friday night, Adam Plutko stole the spotlight with a dominant start to lead UCLA to a 1-0 victory over Oregon in a huge Pac-12 series opener. On Saturday night, it was Nick Vander Tuig's turn to shine, and shine he did.
The right-hander was marvelous, allowing just two hits and striking out six in seven shutout innings. He was nearly perfect, which UCLA needed because the offense gave him just as much support as they gave Plutko, but once again it proved to be enough as the Bruins topped Oregon 1-0 to capture the vital Pac-12 road series.
UCLA's lone run came in the first inning and started with a one-out double by Eric Filia. The sophomore roped a 2-0 pitch to left center, then took third on Kevin Kramer's groundout. Pat Valaika followed with a chopper in between third and short, which the Ducks got a glove to, but couldn't reel in. The scorer ruled it an error, but the Bruins didn't care because either way Valaika reached and Filia scored to put them in front 1-0.
Staked to a lead before he even toed the rubber, Vander Tuig settled in and went to work. He didn't allow a Duck to reach until there were two outs in the third inning, but even after surrendering his first hit, Vander Tuig retired the next man to get out of the inning unscathed.
UCLA tried to get back on the scoreboard in the fourth when Valaika doubled with one out and Pat Gallagher followed with a walk, but a double play ended the inning. Cody Regis started the following frame with a single, but he didn't score either as Vander Tuig continued to work with just the slimmest of advantages.
Oregon's first real threat came in the fifth when Vander Tuig hit the first batter of the inning and a successful sacrifice bunt moved him to second. But with the tying run in scoring position, Vander Tuig struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Vander Tuig's high wire act continued in the next two innings, too. He hit one and walked one in the sixth to put the tying on second again, but a flyout stranded him there. A leadoff double in the seventh put the junior in danger again and a sacrifice bunt put the tying run just 90 feet away, but once again, he came up with a big strikeout. A punch out got him the second out of the inning, then a pop up to second base ended the frame and Vander Tuig's sensational start with UCLA still in front, 1-0.
With Vander Tuig's day over, UCLA turned to fellow junior Zack Weiss, who struck out the leadoff man in the eighth. But Weiss hit the next batter and walked the man after that to put two on. Oregon gave UCLA and Weiss a gift on ball four, though, trying to steal third and getting thrown out to take the lead runner off the bases and put two outs on the scoreboard.
Four outs from victory and with Weiss beginning to wobble, John Savage went to his ace reliever David Berg, who shut the door on the Ducks. Berg picked up the six-out save in Friday's 1-0 win and got the job done again on Saturday, allowing a single to the first man he faced before sitting down four straight to wrap up the UCLA series win.
With the victory, UCLA improved to 25-10 on the year and 9-5 in conference. The Bruins are just 1.5 games behind the Ducks for first place in the Pac-12, a deficit they can cut even further on Sunday if they can complete the sweep.