UCLA Rides Dominant Pitching To USA Baseball-Irish Classic Sweep


Classic UCLA baseball: pitching, pitching and more pitching.

25 innings. Six hits. Three walks. 27 strikeouts. Zero runs.

The UCLA starting pitchers went to the USA Baseball-Irish Classic and absolutely dominated Notre Dame, NC State and Michigan. They were fabulous and because of that, the Bruins didn't have to be.

UCLA went to North Carolina and walked away with three wins because of their great starting pitching. They totaled just five hits in their first two games and went up against the No. 6 Wolfpack, who held back the best pitcher in the country to pitch against them, but it didn't matter. James Kaprielian, Grant Watson and Cody Poteet were too good, and got great defense behind them, for anything else to matter as the Bruins improved to 7-4 on the season.

The weekend started against Notre Dame, who the Bruins hopped on early. Brian Carroll led off the game with a hit by pitch, stole second, took third on a single and scored on a Ty Moore groundout. The following inning, Christoph Bono reached on an error before later scoring on a passed ball. UCLA hadn't done much with the bats, but they had two runs and that was plenty of Kaprielian.

The sophomore went after the Irish from the start, striking out the first two men he faced. The second inning brought two more strikeouts and it wasn't until the fifth that Notre Dame finally picked up a hit. But even when they did and put two men on, Kaprielian struck out the next man to end the inning.

Kaprielian didn't have a lot of room for error because after getting two runs in the first innings, UCLA went completely silent at the plate. They had just one more hit the rest of the way and that was erased by a double play, not that Kaprielian blinked.

After allowing the fifth inning, two-out single, Kaprielian retired the next 10 men he faced. By the time he exited after eight innings, he had struck out 11 and walked just two, while allowing only one hit on 98 pitches. David Berg entered the game and while he had some troubled, walking the leadoff man and allowing a run, he held on for his second save of the season and the Bruins had a weekend opening win.

Beating Notre Dame wasn't a giant accomplishment, though. The Irish aren't a great team, but NC State sure is. They entered the weekend ranked No. 6 in the country and with Carlos Rodon on the mound, the Wolfpack looked to have the upperhand in rematch from last season's College World Series.

Little did the Wolfpack know, but Watson was about to outduel their All-American.

UCLA was first on the board with a two spot in the second thanks to Trent Chatterton. After Moore singled, Luke Persico reached on an error and Bono was hit by a pitch, Chatterton came to the plate with the bases loaded and put together a terrific at-bat. He fell behind 0-2 before battling back to a full count then slapped a pitch through the right side to score two runs -- two runs that proved to be the game-winners.

Watson had a bit of trouble in the first, walking one and throwing a wild pitch to put a man in scoring position, but he got out of that. A pair of singles put two on in the third as well, but Watson got out of that too and from that point on, he cruised. Only two players reached base on the junior the rest of the game, one via error and another on a single, but neither reached second and the southpaw shut down the potent Wolfpack offense.

Like Kaprielian, Watson handed the ball to Berg after shutout eight innings. He hadn't racked up the strikeouts, totaling three, but Watson had allowed just three hits and one walk in a performance as good, and against a better team to boot. Berg didn't have as much trouble on Saturday, erasing a leadoff infield single with a double play before striking out the last batter to wrap up the game.

With two wins from two games, the Bruins had already done their job -- especially considering they had beaten NC State -- but they weren't content to just take that and get back to LA. They wanted a sweep and on Sunday, they got it.

Once again, the Bruins struck early with two runs in the second. Persico and Bono led off with singles before being bunted over then Justin Hazard roped a double into the gap, scoring both. An inning later, the Bruins cashed in Carroll's leadoff double on a Shane Zeile RBI single to give UCLA a 3-0 lead.

The UCLA offense wasn't done scoring again in the fifth as Zeile came through again. Chris Keck was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame then later on, Zeile singled him home. The following inning, Dominic Miroglio singled to start the frame, took second on a bunt and scored on a Keck single and the Bruins were cruising with a 5-0 advantage.

Those five runs proved to be four more than the Bruins needed, thanks to Poteet. A two-out single in the second proved to be as close as Michigan would come to threatening as the sophomore dazzled the rest of the way. He retired 21 straight after the second inning single and a two-out double in the ninth was the only other blemish on his record. By the time he recorded his 27th out, he had struck out 13 and allowed just two hits in a masterful 105-pitch performance to cap a great weekend for the Bruins in North Carolina.

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