After loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second inning Friday night, UCLA baseball followed up with a strikeout and RBI groundout.
With two outs and an 0-2 count on sophomore third baseman Kevin Kramer, the Bruins looked like they would only get one run out of the situation. But Kramer laced the next pitch into left field for an RBI single, and junior shortstop Pat Valaika followed with a three-run homer to left on the very next pitch.
UCLA’s five-run second inning propelled it to a 6-3 win over Wright State on Friday night.
“I like hitting with two outs,” said Kramer, who added another two-out RBI in the fourth. “The pressure is on the pitcher for sure, and right there I had two strikes on me so I was looking for a pitch up and he gave me a curve ball, hung it a little bit, so I decided to take what he was giving me.”
The Bruins (8-2) scored five of six runs with two outs on Friday, and continued that success over the weekend. UCLA won 4-2 on Saturday and 10-2 on Sunday, securing its first series sweep of the season. The team pushed across 14 of its 20 runs with two outs on the weekend.
“We really take pride in trying to stay in innings and extend innings, and we did a good job of doing that and we needed to,” said coach John Savage. “Whenever you have two outs and a pitcher thinks the inning’s over, it’s not over.”
On Friday night, junior pitcher Adam Plutko struggled early, giving up season-highs in hits (7) and earned runs (3). Still, it was enough for him to pick up his second win of the year, as he worked six innings. Savage was pleased with how Plutko responded after getting hit early on.
“I told him in the fifth inning, I said, ‘This is why you’re our Friday-night guy. You’re going to have nights like this, and you need to get us to the seventh inning, you need to pitch in the fifth, pitch in the sixth,’” Savage said. “He put up two zeroes and I think he showed you why he is our Friday-night guy.”
While Plutko cemented his status as the ace of the staff on Friday, sophomore pitcher Grant Watson picked up his second win of the year on Sunday, pitching a career-high seven innings and allowing one unearned run.
“We needed to finish the job off,” Savage said of the sweep. “Watson has been really good all year long and he came out and it was kind of a Grant Watson start. He had good tempo from the beginning, established himself and it was a good way to start a Sunday.”
On Sunday, the Bruins again broke the game open with a five-run inning, scoring five in the third to take a 7-0 lead, highlighted by freshman left fielder Ty Moore’s two-out, three-run triple. Valaika’s two-out double in the sixth closed the scoring for UCLA and matched his career-high with four RBIs.
“We put up a lot of runs but I feel like we didn’t have that many hits. … We got on base other ways, walks, (hit by pitch). I think that’s been working for us and kind of one of our strengths,” Valaika said.