UCLA might still be waiting on their offense to get going, but they haven't had to wait for good pitching at any point this season and Friday night was another example of outstanding Bruin pitching. Gerrit Cole didn't have much run support, but he didn't need much and he got all that he needed in a sterling complete game performance to lead UCLA to a 2-1 win over Washington at Jackie Robinson Stadium. With the win, UCLA now sits at 12-9 on the season, but more importantly, 3-1 in the Pac-10 and a chance to win their first home conference series of the season on Saturday.
It wasn't Cole's most dominant performance in a Bruin uniform, but it was one of his most mature. The junior didn't rack up an absurd amount of strike outs, punching out 10 and he allowed a few base runners here and there. What Cole did exceptionally well though was pitch with men on base and stick to his game plan at all times so it became nearly impossible for the Huskies to string hits together. By the time the evening was over, Cole had allowed five hits, walked a pair and hit a pair, but he never seemed under siege, the mark of a mature pitcher as he improved to 3-2 on the year.
At the plate, UCLA was anything but mature. They drew only two walks in the ballgame and struggled to run the bases smartly. Men were left on base and with anything but a sensational pitching performance the Bruins would have probably lost, but the offense did just enough on Friday night. Cody Keefer led the way with three of UCLA's eight hits and Cody Regis drove a run in while Beau Amaral had one hit, walked twice and scored once.
Each team got a man on base in the first inning, but both base runners were erased. Washington's man was thrown out trying to steal second, one of three Husky base stealers that would be thrown out by a sensational Steve Rodriguez on the evening. UCLA's man was just picked off first base as Amaral got caught napping after reaching on a single up the middle.
Washington was the first of the two teams to put a man in scoring position when a lead off bunt single was followed by a sacrifice bunt. Cole got the next man out on a ground out before the first of six inning ending strike outs on the ballgame ended the frame.
Like the Huskies, the Bruins got a man in scoring position in the second, but theirs came with two outs. Keefer laced a ball into the left field corner and by the time it was recovered and tossed in, he was standing 180 feet away from home plate. It didn't matter though because a fly out to right ended the inning with the game still scoreless.
A one-out single by the Huskies in the fourth gave them a chance to go ahead, but those hopes were dashed by the fantastic battery of Cole and Rodriguez. The single was followed by a strike out and the runner at first attempted to steal second on the third strike only to be gunned out by Rodriguez to end the inning.
UCLA got a gift in the fifth inning, but they were unable to take advantage of it. Keefer singled and was bunted over to second to start the frame and Rodriguez followed with a high fly ball to left field. For whatever reason, the left fielder lost the ball and what should have been a simple fly out resulted in a double that put runners at second and third with one out. That brought Pat Valaika to the plate and the freshman hit a hard grounder to second base that Keefer broke for home on. Keefer was dead in the water at the plate for the inning's second out before another ground ball to second base ended the inning with the game still knotted at zeros.
Finally in the sixth inning, UCLA broke through. A lead off walk by Amaral was followed by the customary sacrifice bunt. This time, the bunt paid off as Regis roped a single to right field that allowed Amaral to come around and score for a Bruin run. After a single put two men on base, Keefer picked a bad time to make his only out of the game by hitting into an inning ending double play.
Cole even flashed a bit of his athleticism in the seventh inning after he started the frame by surrendering a lead off walk. The next batter attempted a sacrifice bunt and got the bunt down, but Cole popped off the hill to gather the ball and fire to second to start the double play.
His defense earned him another run courtesy of the baseball gods in the bottom half of the inning. Two hit by pitches and a walk loaded up the bases before a wild pitch allowed Rodriguez to come on in from third for a 2-0 UCLA lead.
The eighth inning marked the first time Washington would get on the board and it would also mark the last. A lead off double put Cole in a tough spot and a ground out to shortstop made it clear that the Bruins were focused on getting outs, not stopping the run. The runner took third on the grounder to short, but it marked the first out for the Bruins. A grounder to first marked the second out, but also a run for the Huskies. No matter, Cole would finish off the inning with a strike out to send the game to the ninth with the Bruins holding a 2-1 edge.
A two-out walk by Cole put the tying run on base for the Huskies and brought the go-ahead run to the plate. That is when Rodriguez stepped forward one more time, gunning out his third attempted base stealer of the game to end the contest for UCLA's ninth consecutive win over Washington.