With rain in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday, UCLA and Nebraska altered the schedule of their three-game weekend schedule to play a doubleheader on Friday and ensure that they play at least two games. All that meant for UCLA is that they would get to 8-0 a day sooner. That 8-0 start is the Bruins' best since 1978, when they also started 8-0.
The Bruins jumped on the Cornhuskers early in game one, dominating en route to a 13-1 victory and then had to battle it out to defeat the Huskers in game two, 5-3. In the end, it was two outstanding performances on the part of each UCLA starter and an offense still clicking that got it done for the blue and gold.
The first game of the day got underway under a beautiful partly cloudy sky in front of a sparse crowd, but the Bruins made sure the few UCLA fans that showed up would enjoy it. A one-out double in the first inning by Blair Dunlap was followed up by Tyler Rahmatulla getting hit by a pitch. After an out, the two advanced a base each on a wild pitch so when Cody Keefer singled to centerfield, both were able to score and give the Bruins a 2-0 advantage. After Brett Krill walked, Niko Gallego singled home Keefer and a fielder's choice that did not record an out scored Krill to put UCLA ahead 4-0 after one inning.
The second inning brought more scoring from the Bruins and again was kicked off by Dunlap, who hit a one-out triple this time. Rahmatulla followed with a single and the Bruins led 5-0. When Justin Uribe doubled, Rahmatulla came around to score for a 6-0 UCLA edge.
Steve Rodriguez picked up a RBI ground out in the third before Nebraska got their first run of the game in the fourth, the same inning that the Bruins put the game out of reach.
Rahmatulla led off the fourth inning with a double and Uribe followed with a home run onto the top of the Gifford Hitting Facility to make it a 8-0 ballgame. With one man out, Krill and Gallego each hit doubles, scoring a run. Rodriguez finished the inning with a two-run homer off the right field foul pole, his fifth of the season, as UCLA stretched their lead to 12-1.
Krill hit his first career home run in the sixth inning to cap the scoring and give the Bruins a 13-1 victory. While the UCLA offense was rolling, Gerrit Cole was throwing a fantastic game as he picked up his third win in as many starts this season. The sophomore threw seven innings, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out nine before Matt Drummond and Garett Claypool each threw a perfect inning to close the game out. Uribe was tops for UCLA in the game, going 3-5 with three RBI, while Rahmatulla went 3-4 with three runs and Krill was 2-3 with three runs.
Game two got underway in much cooler weather and the Bruin bats were a bit cooler as well, but still hot enough. Trevor Bauer got the start for the Bruins and was nearly as good as Cole. The right-hander threw 6.2 innings and allowed one run, just like Cole. Bauer allows six hits on the game, but struck out 10 to give him 23 in two starts this year.
Bauer has to work out of a tough jam in the second inning, but benefited from poor Nebraska base running. With nobody out and runners at second and third, Bauer threw a high fastball that catcher Trevor Brown couldn't quite handle. The ball only went a few feet away from the plate, though, and the runner at third took off for home. The base runner got caught in the middle and eventually tagged out. Bauer then got a ground out and fly out to get out of the inning.
The Bruin offense didn't get going as quickly as it did in the first game of the doubleheader, waiting until the second inning to get on the board. Keefer led off the inning with a single and took second with some aggressive base running, tagging up to take second on a fly out to right field. With two men out, Dean Espy singled into left field to score Keefer and put UCLA up, 1-0.
The following inning, the Bruins got too more and Dunlap got it going, just as he did in the first game. A lead off double by Dunlap was followed by a bunt single by Rahmatulla to put runners on the corners. Uribe put down a perfect squeeze bunt, scoring Dunlap and moving Rahmatulla to second. When Keefer singled for the second time in the game, Rahmatulla scored for a 3-0 Bruin lead.
Gallego picked up his third home run of the season when he led off the fourth with a bomb to left center, the same location as his first two.
The Huskers offense didn't get it going until the seventh when they picked up a pair of two-out singles. That knocked Bauer from the game and in came Matt Grace. The first batter Grace saw singled, scoring a run to cut the UCLA lead to 4-1.
Another two-out run got the Bruins that run back in the bottom half of the inning. With two men out and Espy on third, Rahmatulla hit a grounder deep in the hole, which the Cornhuskers' shortstop dropped. The play was ruled a single, but single or error, the result was a run scored.
In the eighth inning, the UCLA bullpen got into some trouble with some help from the defense. With two out, the Huskers loaded the bases, bringing closer Dan Klein into the game. Klein allowed a pair of singles to begin his outing, as two runs scored. An error by the third baseman, Espy, is the only reason the inning was still going, though. Nevertheless, the Huskers had cut the lead to 5-3 and had the bases loaded. The next batter hit a hard grounder between first and second base, which the first baseman, Uribe, dove for and snagged before flipping to Klein who was covering first to keep the Bruins ahead.
Klein threw a perfect ninth inning, surviving his first close game as the UCLA closer and picking up his second save of the year, while also ensuring that Bauer would improve to 2-0 on the season. For the entire day, Dunlap was the star, going a combined 4-9 with three doubles, a triple and three runs scored.
UCLA and Nebraska will try to finish off their series on Saturday with a game that has been moved up to 1 pm PST. Rob Rasmussen will go looking for his first win of the year as he gets the start for the Bruins versus the Huskers star freshman, Tom Lemke. As always, you can get updates on the game as it happens on my UCLA baseball twitter.