For only the third time in 13 games this season, UCLA scored more than four runs and they broke that four-run barrier in the first inning as the Bruins found themselves a bit of an offense in a 10-2 win over St. Mary's on Saturday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Stadium. A six-run first inning got UCLA going and good pitching sealed it up as the Bruins improved to 8-5 on the season and ended a three-game losing streak. With the win, UCLA is now 1-1 in this weekend's Dodgertown Classic heading into Sunday's game against USC at Dodger Stadium.
After throwing 129 pitches in a 17 strike out, 10 inning start last weekend, some questioned how Trevor Bauer would recover and perform on Saturday. The junior proved he was just fine, striking out 13 in 7.1 innings and allowing two runs on four hits to pick up the win. Bauer improved to 2-1 on the year as Brandon Lodge and Chase Brewer backed him up by combining for 1.2 innings of scoreless ball to finish things up.
It was the early offense that led the Bruins and that offense was led by Dean Espy. The junior went 1-3 on the day and walked once, but he had the game's biggest hit when he smacked a first inning grand slam to account for his four RBI. Steve Rodrigez and Pat Valaika got the job done at the bottom of the order for the Bruins as Rodriguez went 3-3 with a pair of RBI and Valaika went 2-3 with two RBI as well in addition to a run scored. Chris Giovinazzo came off of the bench to chip in with two hits, a run scored and a RBI and Beau Amaral also added two hits and a run.
Despite going on to roll to a 10-2 win, UCLA actually gave up the first run of the game. St. Mary's picked up a walk and single with one out in the first inning to put men on the corner. Bauer followed with a fake to third and throw to first pick off, but the ball got past Espy at first and the runner scored from third.
Trailing 1-0 early, the Bruin offense got going quickly. Marc Navarro was hit by a pitch to start off the bottom half of the first and Tyler Rahmatulla walked to put a second man on base. Amaral followed with a beautiful bunt single down the third base line that loaded up the bases with Espy coming to the plate. Espy took the first two pitches he saw for balls and then in a good hitter's count, the junior got a fastball up and made it count. Espy drove the ball to deep left center field and out for his first home run of the season, a grand slam that put UCLA ahead 1-0. That wasn't all for UCLA though as Cody Keefer and Jeff Gelalich each picked up well hit singles before a sacrifice bunt by Cody Regis moved them each up 90 feet. A ground out to short by Valaika was good enough to score Keefer from third, then Rodriguez's single plated another for a 6-1 Bruin lead.
Bauer ran into third inning trouble, solely his own doing, but came right back to get out of it all. Two walks and a hit by pitch started the Gaels' third inning and loaded the bases for the visitors without a man out. Things got even tougher on Bauer when he fell behind on the next batter, 3-0. At that point, head coach John Savage got Mitchell Beacom up in the bullpen as it looked like last week's long outing may have worn on Bauer, but the junior came back with a vengeance. Bauer came back with three strikes to pick up the strike out, then struck out the next batter for out number two. He finished up the inning by getting a soft ground out on a two-strike pitch to end the inning without a run coming across.
Two innings later, UCLA added to their lead as the bottom of the order came through. Giovinazzo came off the bench to pinch hit and made the move look good by roping a double down the left field line. Two batters later, Valaika also roped a double down the left field line to score Giovinazzo and add to the UCLA lead. Rodrgiuez followed up Valaika with a single that easily scored Valaika from second and the Bruin lead was 8-1.
A towering solo home run to left field in the top of the sixth cut the UCLA lead to 8-2, but Bruins answered that run with on of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Amaral led off the inning with a soft ground ball up the middle for a base hit, but the sophomore was busting it out of the box and hustled in to second for a double. He followed that up with more aggressive base running by taking third on a ball in the dirt, but that aggressive base running bit him when he got caught trying to score on a ground ball to third. Amaral did well to stay in the run down long enough to allow Espy to take second though, which paid off when an error at first allowed Espy to come around and score.
A single with one out in the eighth brought an end to Bauer's day, but Lodge came in with a strike out and line out to end the frame. A pinch hit single by Brian Carroll and double by Giovinazzo added another run to the Bruin lead at 10-2, then Brewer tossed a scoreless ninth to seal the win for UCLA.
UCLA will wrap up the Dodgertown Classic on Sunday when they take on USC at Dodger Stadium in a 2:30 pm PST game. Adam Plutko will get the nod for the Bruins and Logan Odom will be on the mound for the Trojans. m. Tickets for Sunday are still available on Ticketmaster and will be available at the Dodger Stadium box office. Parking for the game is free and all concessions will be half off, but for those who cannot make it out, they can get updates on my UCLA baseball twitter, listen live or wait until it is televised on delay at 7 pm PST on FS Prime Ticket.