We knew UCLA was going to be challenged offensively, but their pitching wasn't supposed to get knocked around.Only that's what happened when Cal Poly came to Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The Bruins took the opening game of the three-game set, but the Mustangs dominating from then on, knocking out the UCLA starters by the fifth inning in each of the last two games. By the time it was done, Cal Poly had struck for eight runs on Saturday and nine on Sunday, figures almost impossible for the UCLA offense to match.
Cal Poly came into the series ranked in the top 25 so their success this weekend isn't a total surprise. They have always had good offensive teams, only to be cut down by a thin pitching staff. That wasn't the case this weekend, though. In fact, it was their pitching depth, combined with a potent offense, that led them back to take the series.
UCLA got off to a good start to the weekend thanks to James Kaprielian, who was outstanding on Friday night. The sophomore struck out nine and walked just one in seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
By the time the relievers entered the game, UCLA had themselves a pretty comfortable lead. Led by Luke Persico's 4-for-4 performance and a balanced attack that saw seven Bruins record hits, UCLA struck for four runs in the first four innings to take a 4-0 lead.
The only time the Bruins' lead looked like it might be in jeopardy was in the seventh, after Cal Poly scored to cut their lead to 4-2, but Shane Zeile singled home Christoph Bono in the bottom half to kill the Mustangs' momentum. Even when David Berg gave up a run in the ninth, the game was never in doubt as he wrapped up the 5-2 win.
With a good win over a good time -- and their fourth consecutive victory -- the Bruins looked to be flying high, but they came crashing down quickly. Cal Poly's powerful offense made their presence known in the third when Nick Torres took Grant Watson deep for a three-run homer. Two innings later, Watson exited without recording an out and made way for Scott Burke, who then allowed a three-run homer of his own.
By the time Watson and Burke handed the ball to the back end of the bullpen, they had allowed six runs, five earned and the Bruins trailed 6-0. That wasn't going to be nearly good enough with a UCLA offense that mustered just two hits all day and only put runners in scoring position in two innings. By the time it was all done, 1,465 fans had come out to see the Bruins get beat down 8-0.
Sunday looked a lot like Saturday, although with a much smaller crowd. Cody Poteet struggled from the very start, getting hit hard in the first and surrendering two runs, then getting hit hard again in the second and surrendering one. UCLA did a bit to stay in the game with a double by Brett Stephens and single by Zeile in the first to get on the scoreboard, but Cal Poly was always on the front foot.
Poteet was already on the ropes to start the third and when three singles plated two runs, he was given the hook. He had lasted just 2.2 innings and given up give runs, four earned, continuing an ominous start to the season after managing just four innings the week before.
Nick Kern didn't do much better, allowing three hit and three runs in an inning's work. By the time the Bruins batted in the bottom of the fourth, they were down 8-1 and all but buried.
The rest of the UCLA bullpen did a good job, limiting Cal Poly to one more run the rest of the way, but the offense was MIA again. They managed just six hits and they didn't help out with the gloves either, committing two errors.
UCLA has some problems right now, especially on offense, but their defense could use some work too. The pitching is likely to sort itself out, although Poteet is a concern, but something is going to have to change offensively. Luckily, this is just the second week of a long season and at 4-3, the Bruins are still in fine shape.