After losing two of three to Arizona St. last weekend and falling to 6-3 in the Pac-12, UCLA knew they needed to bounce back strong against Oregon St. this weekend if they wanted to make a run at their third straight conference title. They could not afford to drop a home series and certainly not against the Beavers, who are right in the Pac-12 title race.
The pressure was on UCLA, and at least for one night, they responded. Adam Plutko allowed just one unearned run on two hits in seven innings and David Berg picked up a four-out save as the Bruins limited the Beavers to four hits in a tough 3-2 win to claim the series opener that pushes their record to 19-7 on the season and 7-3 in the Pac-12, one game behind first place Oregon.
UCLA got help from their offense too, which only totaled five hits, but added three walks, two hit by pitches and benefitted from two Oregon St. errors to beat one of the best pitchers in the nation, Matt Boyd. Kevin Williams had the game's big hit, a solo home run to right that gave UCLA a lead they would not relinquish, while Pat Gallagher doubled twice, drove a run in and scored a run to help fuel the Bruins' victory.
The only run Plutko surrendered was actually a gift from the right-hander and gave the Beavers an early 1-0 lead. The junior threw the ball away on a comebacker to start the game for a two-base error that put the leadoff man on second. After a bunt single, Plutko made his second mistake, this time with a balk that forced a run in from third and Oregon St. had an early advantage.
UCLA had a chance to even things up in the second when Eric Filia walked with one out and Gallagher followed it up with a double to put men at second and third, but they would not cash it in. Consecutive strikeouts ended the inning and the Bruins were still a run down.
While the offense struggled to find a way to plate a run against Boyd, Plutko settled into a groove. He retired 10 straight from the first inning through the fourth and while he did walk consecutive batters with two outs in the fourth, he got out of that unscathed to send the Bruins to the bottom half of the inning still trailing just 1-0.
The Bruins would erase that lead in the fourth and it was the result of Gallagher's second double. Shane Zeile singled and two batters later, Gallagher stroked one down the right field line, allowing Zeile to come around to tie the game at 1-1.
An inning later, Williams would put the Bruins in front with his first home run of the season. He jumped on a 2-1 pitch and deposited it over the wall in right to give UCLA their first lead of the game.
With Plutko on the mound, the Bruins' 2-1 lead looked safe. He allowed a two-out single in the fifth, but he would not allow another hit for the rest of the game. The right-hander looked every bit the dominant pitcher UCLA hoped he would be this season, and has struggled to be at times, stepping up in the Bruins' biggest game of the season so far.
Plutko excited the game after seven innings, but before the bullpen could take over, the offense got them another run with some help from the Beavers. Gallagher reached on an error to start the bottom of the seventh and took second on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Brian Carroll grounded to third, which should have ended the inning, but a throwing error allowed him to reach and Gallagher to score for a 3-1 UCLA lead.
Zack Weiss gave a run back in the eighth when he allowed a two-strike, two-out RBI double. He was one strike away from getting out of the inning, but all of a sudden the UCLA was cut to just 3-2 and the tying run was in scoring position. That was John Savage's cue to bring in Berg, who struck out the first man he faced to end the frame and keep the Bruins in front.
The ninth inning looked just as easy for Berg, too, as he sat the Beavers down in order to wrap up a victory for UCLA. Big game, big win.