For the first time since 2000, UCLA can call themselves Pac-10 champions. With Oregon St.'s loss to Oregon on Saturday afternoon, the Bruins moved into first place in the conference by a half game with just two games left to play so when UCLA took to the field in Tempe in the evening, they knew a win over Arizona St. would clinch at least a share of the conference crown. Well, the Bruins went out and got that win thanks to Dean Espy's hot hitting and Trevor Bauer's continued incredible pitch. UCLA took down Arizona St., 7-0, to improve to 33-21 and 17-8 in the Pac-10, giving them a chance to win the Pac-10 title outright with a win tomorrow or Oregon St. loss.
Several weeks ago Bauer's season went from amazing to historic and he kept it going on Saturday night. The junior struck out 14 in his eighth consecutive complete game, only pushing his standing in the UCLA and national record books higher. The Pac-10's second-best offense managed just five hits in the ballgame and Bauer walked just one in yet another dominating performance for a guy who is making a very strong case for National Pitcher of the Year honors.
In a season where the offense has been a question mark, it has been anything but in Tempe. A night after putting up 10 runs against the Sun Devils, UCLA scored seven runs on 10 hits, led by Espy. The junior went 4-4 with four RBI, two runs scored, a home run and a double. It gives him 11 hits in his last four games as he leads the Bruin offense down the stretch run. Jeff Gelalich chipped in with two hits and runs scored of his own, while Beau Amaral also scored twice and Cody Regis hit a two-run homer, his team leading sixth home run of the season.
Just like on Friday, UCLA started quickly with first inning scoring. Amaral started off the game with a triple and the Bruins never looked back. With one out, Espy laced a double all the way to the wall in left center, easily scoring Amaral for a 1-0 UCLA lead. That wasn't all though. With two outs, Regis jumped all over a pitch and hit it very far and very deep to right field for a two-run homer that stretched UCLA's lead to 3-0.
Giving Bauer a 3-0 lead before he even goes to the mound is almost unfair, but the Sun Devils actually came close to coming back with tallies of their own in the first. A single and hit by pitch put two men on with only one out and a double steal made it two Sun Devils in scoring position. Bauer didn't panic though, getting a key strikeout for the second out of the inning. The next batter hit a blooper into short right center that looked like it would fall for a two-RBI single, but Kevin Williams ranged back and made a good over the shoulder catch to end the inning.
Arizona St. almost scored again in the second inning when they got a one-out triple, but once again Bauer made the pitches he needed. The junior got a pop up to second base for the second out of the inning, then got an inning-ending strikeout to keep the Sun Devils scoreless.
A 3-0 lead is usually good enough for Bauer, but some more runs don't hurt and UCLA got them in the fifth. Amaral put down a good one-out bunt and while it was harshly ruled an error, the key was that he was on base. Gelalich followed with a single to left and Amaral went flying around the bases, taking third on the single to put men at the corners. Espy continued with his hot hitting, smacked a RBI single to left and the Bruins led 4-0. Cody Keefer also had a single in him, knocking one of his own to left, scoring Gelalich and putting the Bruins up by five runs.
While Espy may have had three hits in his pocket, he had one more big one left. The junior jumped all over a pitch in the eighth and launched it out to center for a two-run homer that pushed the UCLA lead to 7-0.
The UCLA offense was firing on all cylinders and Bauer was too. He retired nine straight Sun Devils between the fifth and eighth innings, only to see that streak come to an end on an infield single made possible when Bauer slipped getting off the mound so he couldn't cover first base in time. It didn't affect much though.