This is the kind of weekend that baseball coach John Savage envisions.
Dominant pitching on Friday, some additional dominant pitching on Saturday and just for good measure, more dominant pitching on Sunday.
UCLA got three superb outings from its starting pitchers and swept Oregon on the road over the weekend. The Bruins (27-16, 14-7) outscored the Ducks (23-23, 5-13) 14-2 in the three games.
“Having the pitchers pitch that well gives us the confidence that we don’t need to try and do too much offensively,” sophomore third baseman Cody Regis said.
Perhaps Friday night was an indicator of good things to come; ace Gerrit Cole broke out of a mini slump with seven and one-third innings of one-run pitching. The junior right-hander struck out five in upping his record to 5-5.
“Gerrit came out and pitched fantastically on Friday night,” Regis said. “That really just set the tone for the rest of the weekend.”
Saturday, meanwhile, was a run-of-the-mill outing if your name is Trevor Bauer. UCLA’s other junior right-handed ace tossed his fifth consecutive complete game, striking out 12 and giving up just one run in a 3-1 victory.
Not to be outdone by his older colleagues, freshman Adam Plutko finished off the sweep with a complete-game 4-0 shutout win. For a while, though, it appeared that Plutko would once again be the victim of a lack of run support. But then the Bruin bats struck for one in the eighth and three in the ninth to ensure that Plutko picked up his fourth win of the season.
“It was a good matchup with their hitters,” Plutko said. “I pitched aggressively.”
Although somewhat overshadowed by the aces who precede him in the rotation, Plutko has been quietly putting together an elite season as the designated Sunday starter.
“I love flying under the radar,” he said. “I just do my thing week in and week out and let Gerrit and Trevor do their thing.”
When all three pitchers are doing their thing, weekends like this one happen. It was a marked difference from recent weekends, the last two of which resulted in series losses.
“We finished, plain and simple,” Plutko said. “Other weekends we came close, a couple bad breaks didn’t go our way, we didn’t really close games like we should have.”
“It’s really nice, especially rebounding from last weekend,” Regis added.
The sweep of Oregon comes at an interesting point in the schedule for UCLA, which plays five games this week, none against Pac-10 opponents. After that, the Bruins have series remaining against Cal and Arizona State before the postseason gets underway. If they want the opportunity to host a regional, the Bruins might need every last win. The Oregon series showed they have the pitching to do it.
“We did a lot of good things this weekend,” Savage said. “It’s really something to build off.”
With reports from Sam Strong, Bruin Sports senior staff.