UCLA has made a habit or leaving men in scoring position so when Shane Zeile stepped to the play with Eric Filia on third and two outs in the 11th inning, it seemed like another opportunity to disappoint. But Zeile came through, roping a single to left to plate the winning run and deliver the Bruins a series opening 7-6 win over Washington St. in Pullman.
Kevin Kramer led the way for the Bruins, picking up two hits and scoring twice, while Brian Carroll drove in a pair and scored one. Filia made his presence felt, too, with a hit, two walks and scoring the winning run, of course.
The Bruins' offense has to be excellent because the pitching slipped for a game. Adam Plutko allowed eight hits, walked three and did not strike out a single battle in five rough innings. The result was four runs scored and the end to a month of spectacular starts. James Kaprielian allowed a run on thee hits in two innings of relief, while Zack Weiss surrendered a run himself while retiring just one batter. David Berg was the lone UCLA pitcher to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard, striking out four in 3.2 shutout innings to earn the win.
UCLA gave their pitchers a nice lead in the early innings, too, so it wasn't as if the pressure was on them to put up zeros. The Bruins got on the board in the second when an error, single and another error plated a run. After a walk loaded the bases, Carroll then drew a walk, forcing in another run to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
An inning later, Kramer and Pat Valaila teamed to add to the Bruins' lead. Keamer started the inning with a single then took second on a balk before scoring on a Valaika single and UCLA had a three-run advantage.
The Bruins weren't done yet, though. Pat Gallagher led off the fourth inning with a double then scored on a Carroll single to extend the UCLA lead to 4-0. Filia then followed with a bunt single, but the Cougars threw the ball away trying to get Filia at first, allowing Carroll to come around and score for a 5-0 UCLA lead.
But as soon as Plutko got his five-run lead, he ran into trouble. A pair of one-out singles, followed by a walk loaded the bases for the Cougars in the fourth, then a fielder's choice scored a run to cut the UCLA lead to 5-1. The following inning, a single followed by a double scored another run and the Bruins' advantage was down to three runs.
Plutko may have run into trouble in the fourth and fifth, but he was still in control with UCLA up 5-2. The junior could have righted things, but after a double and single started the sixth, John Savage was forced to call it a day on his ace's day and go to the bullpen.
Kaprielian has his own troubles, though. He threw a wild pitch to his first batter, which scored a run and moved another into scoring position, then a one-out single scored another run and Wazzu was within one at 5-4. The freshman's struggles continued were not done there either. A wild pitch and balk moved the runner to third so when the Cougars picked up a two-out infield single, it was enough to score a run from 90 feet away and knot the game up at 5-5.
UCLA worked quickly to get the lead back, striking the very next inning. Once again, Kramer led the way with a one-out single and this time Valaika followed with a walk before Zeile was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought up Regis, who hit into a RBI fielder's choice and the Bruins were back on top again.
With the lead and the back end of their outstanding bullpen coming in, UCLA had good reason to believe they had the game in their back pocket, but it didn't play out that way. Weiss allowed a one-out single in the eighth, which was all Savage had to see before bringing in Berg, but he didn't fair much better. He allowed singles to each of the first two batters he faced, the second of which scored the tying run and after a scoreless ninth, the Bruins and Cougars were primed for extra innings.
Both teams went down in order in the 10th, bringing the Bruins to the plate in the 11th. Filia led off the frame with a walk and after a sacrifice bunt, the Bruins had the tying run standing at second with two chances to score him. The first opportunity went by the wayside as Valaika grounded out, but Zeile made good on the second with a single to left. Filia came trotting in and UCLA had their lead back, just three outs from victory.
Berg didn't make things easily in the bottom of the 11th, allowing a leadoff single to put the tying run on base. He got the next two men to get within an out from the win, but a four-pitch walk put the tying run in scoring position and UCLA was walking a tightrope again. The Bruins weren't on the tightrope for long, though, because Berg retired the next man on the first pitch to wrap up the game and deliver UCLA the opening game of the three-game set.
With the win, UCLA improved to 26-12 on the season and 10-6 in the Pac-12. But Oregon and Oregon St. also won on Friday, leaving the Bruins right where they started the evening in the conference-- in third place and 2.5 games back of first.