UCLA entered the weekend in a three-way tie for first place in the conference with both the Ducks and the Huskies, and while the Bruins were able to keep pace with the Huskies on Friday, the Sun Devils really showed their post-season credentials, winning the next two and earning a big road series win, coming on the heels of taking two out of three in Corvallis against the Beavers. Now, the Bruins find themselves in a three way tie for second with the Beavers and Ducks. Likewise, UCLA slid from being ranked #18 by Baseball America to #21 in the rankings released earlier today.
Last night, James Kaprielian (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 12 K, 2 BB) got into some trouble early, falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first, in large part due to some poor fielding, but was able to pick himself up and hold Arizona State to just one more run, to give the Bruins' offense a chance to get him his fourth win. Fortunately, Arizona State's former Sunday starter Brett Lilek (3.0 IP, 3 ER, 3 K, 3 BB) didn't look up to the task on Friday night, lasting just three innings, and getting the hook once the Bruins took a 4-3 lead. With the lead in hand, Kaprielian and the Bruin bullpen never led Arizona State back in it, with Max Schuh (1.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 K), Nick Kern (1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 K), and David Berg (1.0 IP, 0 ER) combining to put together a shut-down three-inning relief effort to give Kaprielian his fourth win of the year.
Unfortunately, that 7-3 victory on Friday would be the only one UCLA would notch this weekend, with the Sun Devils hitting the usually-reliable Grant Watson hard and getting a 8-5 win on Saturday:
Grant Watson (5.2 IP, 6 ER, 4 K, 4 BB) gave UCLA three solid innings of shut-out work before the Sun Devils torched him for five runs in the top of the fourth. UCLA responded with four runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, but the Sun Devils were able to extend their lead, scoring again in the top of the sixth and top of the ninth.
On Sunday, the Bruins had the game in their grasp, but gave it away, losing 6-5, in a heart-breaker in 10 innings. The Bruins took the lead early, getting a run in each of the first two frames, before adding a third in the bottom of the fifth to make it 3-0. The Sun Devils notched one back in the top of the sixth, but broke it open in the top of the seventh, scoring three to take a 4-3 advantage. The Bruins answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to re-take the lead, but the bullpen couldn't close it out, letting ASU tie it in the top of the ninth, and win it in the top of the tenth.
With the series in the books, the Bruins now find themselves at 16-10 overall and 6-3 in conference play. They'll head down to LMU on Tuesday, before taking on Long Beach State this weekend. They'll need to bounce back and re-gain some momentum in these non-conference games before resuming their fight to get back to the top of the conference.