The way the series ended will have the Bruins steaming, but it's tough to be upset with any series win. The Bruins opened up their 2009 season this year at Jackie Robinson Stadium versus a 2008 regional participant in UC Davis and won the opening two games, before dropping the finale. All in all, the Bruins got the necessary series win and will take a winning record (to go along with a national ranking that bumped up to #9) into a very difficult slate of games in the upcoming week.
On Friday night, the Bruins sent Rob Rasmussen to the hill for the first pitches of 2009 and the sophomore southpaw gave the Bruins just what they needed. He went five innings and didn't allow a run while only three men reached base. His performance was followed by two shutout innings by Garett Claypool and Matt Grace, who allowed one run in his two innings of work. While the pitching was fantastic, it didn't need to be as the UCLA bats did more than enough to win the game. Seven Bruins had RBIs in the game, 11 scored runs and freshman Chris Amezquita hit a home run in his first collegiate at bat as the Bruins rolled over the Aggies 13-1 in the season opener.
Saturday's game saw the debut of freshman phenom Gerrit Cole. Most of you are probably aware by now, but Cole was a first round pick by the New York Yankees, but became the first player in seven years to be selected in the first round and choose to attend college. In his UCLA debut, Cole didn't disappoint. Yes, there's room for improvement, but he showed the raw skills that should make him a Bruin great. Cole opened up the game by walking the leadoff batter, but from then on he assaulted the plate with a fastball that sat at 95 mph and touched 97 mph. When he felt like it, he'd throw in a slider that left Davis batters in a daze. He even tossed a few changeups in there, well to change it up. Six innings later, Cole exited the game with only one run on the board (it was unearned) and seven strikeouts to his name. Niko Gallego and Casey Haerther led the way for the Bruins with the bats as Gallego scored twice and drove in two, while Haerther knocked home two of his own and hit a towering home run to left center field. Up 5-2 going to the ninth, Bruins fans got a second freshman pitching treat as Trevor Bauer took the mound to pick up the save. Bauer graduted from high school a semester early to join the Bruins in 2009 and the should be high school senior looked fantastic. It took 13 pitches for Bauer to retire the side in order in the ninth as he picked up his first collegiate save in his first collegiate appearance.
The Bruins took to the field on Sunday looking for a series sweep of the Aggies, but things were shaky early. Starting pitcher Charles Brewer let the first two batters of the game reach base and loaded the bases in the first before getting out of the first inning unscathed. The Bruins took an early 2-0 lead when Blair Dunlap brought one home on a ground ball and Amezquita doubled home a run in the second inning. The two teams traded runs in the third, but the Aggies struck it big in the fourth. A string of hits knocked Brewer out of the game after recording only nine outs, but he had only given up one run. He was replaced by Gavin Brooks who allowed four runs in only one inning of work, although only two were earned as the UCLA defense faltered. In the bottom of the fifth Cody Decker singled to score Justin Uribe from second and make the score 5-4. In the sixth, the Bruins retook the lead when Gabe Cohen singled to plate two runs. UCLA extended that lead to 7-5 in the seventh and looked well on their way to a win. Bauer had entered the game with two outs in the seventh and was cruising, at least until the ninth when sketchy command and a tiring arm saw him allow two runs. The Bruins didn't hep themselves either as they repeatedly failed to score with runners in scoring position and it came back to bite them when a fatigued Bauer allowed a run in the 11th inning to give Davis the 8-7 lead. UCLA made one final attempt to score in the bottom of the 11th when they put a runner on second with one out, but Amezquita's drive to left field came up about 10 feet short of the wall for a flyout that ended the game.
The 2-1 Bruins will play two midweek games this week before a trip to Houston this weekend so it will be key that UCLA starting pitchers go deep into games in order to preserve the bullpen. On Tuesday, the Bruins will head up the coast to face the upstart UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. Fortunately, the strength of the Gauchos is in their weekend pitching, something the Bruins will miss. On Wednesday, UCLA will return to Jackie Robinson Stadium to play UC Riverside. If the Bruins' pitching depth were ever to come into play, this will be the week. GO BRUINS!!!