If there were any questions about how the inexperienced Bruins would deal with the postseason pressure, they answered them quickly and then some. From the very beginning, the talent gap between the top-seeded Bruins and fourth-seeded Kent St. was evident and the scoreboard showed it at the end of the game as UCLA walked away 15-1 winners. The win marks the fourth consecutive Regional appearance, all of the Regional appearances under head coach John Savage, that UCLA has taken the first game of the Regional.
The win sends UCLA into the winner's bracket for a 6 pm PDT match-up versus LSU, who defeated UC Irvine in an 11 inning thriller earlier in the day. The winner of that game will advance to the Regional championship game with two chances to win one game and advance to the Super Regionals.
Five Bruins had multiple hits on the evening, led by Chris Giovinazzo, who went 2-5 with three RBI and two runs. Steve Rodriguez went 2-3 with two RBI and a run, while Cody Regis also went 2-3, but he scored twice and drove one in. Jeff Gelalich picked up a pair of hits with two runs and a RBI and Beau Amaral led the Bruins at the top of the order with a 2-3, two RBI, two run effort. UCLA finished the evening with 15 hits and added seven walks and four hit by pitches to the equation.
Earlier in the season, Gerrit Cole had struggled with getting a little to excited before big games and struggling through the first inning as a result. That didn't happen on Friday evening though as he struck out seven, walked just one and limited the big-hitting Golden Flashes to only one hit in five scoreless innings. Matt Drummond relieved him with two scoreless innings in which he struck out four Scott Griggs and Brandon Lodge each pitched an inning, Griggs getting out of trouble to not allow a run and Lodge allowing one in the ninth.
A catcher's interference and pop up that dropped between two Bruin fielders gave the Golden Flashes a chance to get on Cole in the first, but an inning ending strike out put any hopes of jumping on UCLA to bed. Before long, any hopes of an upset were put to bed.
A single by Amaral, hit by pitch and walk by Tyler Rahmatulla loaded the bases for the Bruins in the first. A double play slowed the UCLA rally, but it did plate a run for a 1-0 lead. One batter later, Regis smacked one to left field, just one foot from the top of the wall, for a RBI double to stretch that UCLA lead to 2-0.
Two innings later, UCLA put the game out of reach and it started with Amaral again. An Amaral walk and stolen base put a runner in scoring position then Rahmatulla's one-out double put runners at second and third. A ground out to short by Justin Uribe plated Amaral and a walk by Regis put runners at the corners. Giovinazzo followed by rolling one shortstop, but he got down the line quick enough to beat it out for a single, scoring Rahmatulla. Consecutive hit by pitches forced a run in for a 5-0 edge, then Rodriguez dumped a blooper into left to score two more.
With a 7-0 lead, Cole was able to cruise along and the offense kept going at it. The fourth inning brought more scoring for UCLA as Giovinazzo hit a hard liner off of the fence in center field to score Rahmatulla and Regis. A single back up the box by Gelalich scored Giovinazzo before Amaral hit a long double to center, scoring two more for a 12-0 UCLA advantage.
Marc Navarro came off the bench and knocked in a run with a double in the sixth. Later in the inning, an error allowed Rodgriguez to score and a sacrifice fly by another man coming off of the bench, Dean Espy, scored UCLA's 15th run of the ballgame.
Finally in the ninth inning Kent St. got on the board with a run, but the game was long out of reach by that point. UCLA has no trouble finishing off the Golden Flashes and picking up their first ever win in a Regional they hosted, setting them up to play LSU on Saturday evening.