UCLA is a work in progress, and first place in the Pac-12.
Things have gone well for the Bruins in Pac-12 play and that continued over the weekend, when they captures a series win over Washington St. to improve to 5-1 in the conference. That keeps them tied atop the conference with Oregon and Washington, a game ahead of Pac-12 favorite Oregon St.
The Bruins' weekend actually got off to a rough start, with them dropping the opener 2-0 as their offense failed them. The Cougars limited UCLA to just five hits, none of them for extra bases. In fact, only two Bruins found their way into scoring position all game as Jason Monda and the Wazzu bullpen stymied the UCLA offense.
Washington St. first got to UCLA in the second, when a leadoff walk came back to bite James Kaprielian. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second before a two-out single plated him to put the Cougs in front. In the sixth, it was a wild pitch that did Kaprielian in as he allowed a two-out single before a wild pitch moved him to second and another base hit plated the run.
While Kaprielian will be disappointed to have helped the Cougs score each of their runs, he was strong. Wazzu managed just two runs on eight hits against the UCLA ace, who was not his sharpest, having to throw 102 pitches in six innings. But the real issue for the Bruins was their missing offense, and it doomed them to a series opening loss.
UCLA bounced back quickly on Saturday, though, and it was the offense that did it.
Brian Carroll led off the first with a base hit and Christoph Bono finished with a base hit of his own before Shane Zeile singled home Carroll to give them a lead. Luke Persico then added to it with a two RBI single as the Bruins took a 3-0 advantage to the second. That's when Carroll singled home Trent Chatterton and the Bruins led 4-0.
Handing an early lead to Grant Watson is usually safe and on Saturday, it was. The southpaw allowed just four hits in eight innings of work and limited the Cougars to two runs, one earned. By the time he handed the ball to David Berg in the ninth, the game was well in hand and Berg needed just seven pitches to wrap up the game.
But if Saturday was easy for UCLA, Sunday was anything but.
Cody Poteet struggled from the get go, allowing two hits and hitting a batter in the first as Washington St. struck for two runs and the third inning was even worse. The sophomore allowed three consecutive one-out singles to loaded the bases then another base hit to score a run. That was enough for John Savage, who gave Poteet the hook with the Cougars up 3-0, the bases loaded and the right-hander showing no sign of turning things around. Unfortunately, Grant Dyer walked the first man he saw and then allowed a RBI groundout, giving Wazzu a 5-0 lead after three innings.
Even if the UCLA offense was improved of late, it's still not an explosive unit so a five-run deficit is a steep hill for them to climb. And after five scoreless innings, it didn't look like there was a comeback in the offing.
That's when Kevin Williams turned the game around.
Zeile and Persico singled to put two on when Williams stepped to the plate in the sixth. He took the first pitch, a strike, but then got a pitch on the inside half that he could drive and did just that, blasting it out to right for his second homer of the year. The long ball scored three and cut the Wazzu lead to 5-3, finally giving the Bruins hope for a comeback.
It didn't look like the eighth inning would be the time for UCLA to tie the game after the first two men were retired, and the Cougars' seventh inning run to make it a 6-3 game didn't help, but Dominic Miroglio drew a two-out walk to start a rally. Chatterton then followed with a single and Kort Peterson walked, loading the bases for Carroll, who picked up a RBI single. That brought Bono to the plate and the Bruins' most clutch hitter came through again, lacing a double down the right field line to score a pair and tie the game at 6-6.
The contest went to extra innings and because the Bruins can't even make things easy, they allowed a run in the top half of the inning. That left them in need of a run in the bottom half, and they came through with that run and more. Aaron Weimer singled to start the inning and Carroll was bit by a pitch, giving Bono the chance to bunt both over, which he did. That gave Moore a chance to win the game, and he did. The sophomore singled to right, scoring two runs to send his teammates flying out of the dugout as UCLA came from behind to capture a win in a game they looked dead in.
UCLA now sits at 14-8 on the season, with a four-game week on tap. First, the Bruins will host Long Beach St. on Tuesday, then they will welcome Arizona St. to Jackie Robinson Stadium for a three-game set as UCLA will try to keep their spot atop the Pac-12.