It took a bit longer than desired, but the brooms came out of the closet after all.
UCLA blew a late lead Sunday but scored in the bottom of the ninth to beat Washington 3-2 and sweep the three-game series in a not-so-tidy bit of spring cleaning.
Sophomore third baseman Cody Regis laced an RBI double into left-center field that scored junior first baseman Dean Espy from first with one out in the ninth to ensure the Bruins (14-9, 5-1 Pac-10) posted a perfect weekend.
“I was just looking for something out over the plate, something I could get extended on,” Regis said. “And I got it, got a pretty good swing on it.”
Regis’ hit was only necessary because the Huskies (7-18, 0-3) scored twice in the top of the ninth to tie things up. Both of the runs were charged to freshman closer Nick Vander Tuig, although both were unearned.
The offensive activity of the final inning made up for a beginning that was dominated by pitchers. UCLA junior catcher Steve Rodriguez recorded the game’s first hit with a third-inning double, and Washington had just one hit through seven innings against Bruin freshman starter Adam Plutko.
Rodriguez drove in the Bruins’ first run in the fifth when his hard ground ball made it under the glove of the Washington third baseman and allowed senior right fielder Chris Giovinazzo to score from second. In the seventh, UCLA got a leadoff triple from Regis and a sacrifice fly from Giovinazzo to score its second run.
Plutko was able to bounce back from a less than stellar outing on March 27 against USC, when he was unable to pitch the Bruins to a sweep of the Trojans. This time around, however, he was in full control, striking out six and walking two while throwing 97 pitches in his seven innings.
“Plutko’s game is attacking the glove and attacking the hitters,” Rodriguez said. “When he goes and attacks, a lot of guys have a hard time hitting him. That’s what he really focused on this week, and that’s what he came out and did.”
“He was himself more today than he was last week,” coach John Savage added.
In pitching as well as he did Sunday, Plutko might have done the impossible and equaled the performances of his predecessors in the UCLA rotation, junior aces Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.
Cole recorded 10 strikeouts in throwing his second complete game of the year on Friday, pitching the Bruins to a 2-1 victory. Bauer wasn’t quite as effective on Saturday ““ he gave up three runs in eight innings in a 5-3 win ““ but he did match Cole’s 10 strikeouts.
Washington’s ninth-inning rally on Sunday prevented Plutko from earning the third win of his freshman campaign. Even so, it felt good for Plutko, Vander Tuig and the rest of the Bruins to see the much-maligned offense respond quickly to adversity with a walk-off victory.
“Whenever you have a game 2-0, and we don’t finish the game off, it’s tough to take,” Savage said. “But we found some resiliency and came up with a big run in the ninth.”