Beau Amaral started the season in a major slump, striking out time and time again and looking nothing like a lead off hitter, let alone someone who was supposed to lead the UCLA offense as they went in search of back-to-back Pac-12 titles. Well, it is safe to say that his slump is over. A day after hitting a monster three-run home run, Amaral picked up five hits and scored three runs, while adding some fine defense to lead the Bruins to a series-clinching 12-3 win over Washington St.
Saturday marked the second consecutive match in which the Bruins won 12-3, but they were even better at the plate than they were last night in pounding out 16 hits. Seven of those 16 hits went fro extra bases, too, as UCLA flashed some power, led by Amaral and Pat Valaika's two doubles and Jeff Gelalich's fifth home run of the season. Toss in three-RBI games by Tyler Heineman and Eric Filia-Snyder and UCLA was rolling at the dish.
It wasn't Nick Vander Tuig's best day and because it took a while for the UCLA offense to get going, he didn't get the win, but did keep the Bruins in the game long enough for the offense to get their chance. The sophomore went 5.2 innings, surrendering three runs on seven hits and striking out six to four walks. David Berg earned the win to improve to 3-0 on the year with 1.1 innings of shutout ball, while Ryan Deeter and Zack Ortiz each worked a scoreless frame.
Vander Tuig allowed a double to start the game, but managed to get out of the first inning unscathed. He wouldn't be so luck in the second, giving up a solo home run that put the Cougars on top.
UCLA had their own chance to go in front in the first inning, but Trevor Brown hit into an inning-ending double play with men on the corners. The Bruins then left runners in scoring position in both the second and third, but Valaika followed up a Cody Regis walk with a run-scoring double in the fourth and the game was all tied up.
It would only be tied up for half an inning because the Cougars got the bats going in the fifth. Three consecutive singles loaded the bags, setting the stage for Wazzu's top hitter, Derek Jones. The senior made no mistake when he got ahead in the count, 2-1, roping a ball back up the middle for a two-RBI single and the Cougs were up a pair.
The Bruins got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the inning when Filia-Snyder grounded one to second base, scoring Amaral from third, but they left more out there. Brown hit into an inning-ending double play with men on the corners for the second time in the ballgame and UCLA was still trailing, albeit by only run.
When a couple men reached with two out in the sixth, Vander Tuig's day came to an end and Berg came in for him. He didn't make things easy on himself, hitting the first man he faced, but then getting a strikeout to end the inning with the Bruins down just one.
They wouldn't be down one for long, though. Valaika doubled and then with two outs, he scored on a passed ball to even things up. That's when the bars really got got. Kevin Williams walked and Amaral singled before Heineman ripped a triple to left-center, scoring two and giving UCLA a 5-3 lead. Filia-Snyder followed that with a RBI single and then Gelalich delivered the big blow with a towering home run that almost cleared the hitting facility in right field. The blast brought home two and gave the Bruins an 8-3 lead after six.
UCLA added to their lead in the seventh when Williams walked and Amaral doubled to put two on for Heineman. The junior came through with his second extra base hit of the game, a double to right-center, that scored Williams. A single by Filia-Snyder plated Amaral then after a Gelalich walk, Brown atoned for his two double plays with a two-RBI double that capped a 12-3 UCLA win.
Saturday's win pushes the Bruins' record to 17-4 on the season, 4-1 in conference play and winners of 15 of their last 16, but there was a bit of bad news on the day. Cody Keefer injured his left hand diving for a ball in the first inning and had to come out of the game, but there is no word on the severity of the injury.
There is one more game remaining this weekend, but Mother Nature may get involved. It is currently scheduled for Sunday at 1 pm PT, but rain is in the forecast and if it cannot be played, they will play it on Monday.