Redshirt freshman left fielder Christoph Bono charged forward before he realized the ball was going over his head. Bono turned to run back but slipped and the ball landed past him for a double to put the California baseball team ahead of UCLA in the first inning on Sunday.
Bono and the Bruins bounced back, however, scoring 10 of the next 11 runs to take a 10-2 win in the rubber match of the series. No. 11 UCLA scored four runs in the third, including Bono’s two-out RBI single, to take the lead, and never looked back.
In each game of the three-game series, Cal struck first, scoring the opening run of the game. But the Bruins got the response they were looking for, winning 8-3 on Saturday and 10-2 on Sunday, after losing the series opener, 5-1, on Friday.
“Once we got that (win on Saturday), our momentum was towards today and it really showed with our bats because our bats have been cold lately,” said sophomore right fielder Eric Filia, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBI on Sunday.
“Once those bats start swinging, everyone starts swinging. It’s contagious.”
Sophomore pitcher Grant Watson picked up his fourth consecutive victory in as many starts, improving to 5-0 on the year, while pitching seven innings and striking out five on Sunday.
After surrendering the run early on, Watson allowed just one unearned run the rest of the way, with the Golden Bears scoring on a passed ball in the fifth.
“I really thought today we played our best game in a while,” said coach John Savage. “We pitched, we played defense and our bats came alive, so it was kind of a team win today and we needed that after losing Friday.”
Cal broke the game open with a four-run seventh inning on Friday, tagging UCLA junior pitcher Adam Plutko with his first loss of the season. It was the junior’s first loss since April 27, 2012.
On Saturday, UCLA (17-4, 5-1 Pac-12) took its first lead of the series in the bottom of the fifth inning. Down 2-1 with the bases loaded and two out, junior shortstop Pat Valaika smacked a three-run triple to right-center field to put the Bruins in front. In the next inning, UCLA added four more runs to take an 8-2 advantage, including Valaika’s RBI single.
“I think we kind of put it together Saturday and Sunday,” Valaika said. “Friday, we struggled a little bit with the bats but pitching and defense has always been there, and today and yesterday we put a lot hits and got a lot of clutch hits with runners in scoring position so we put some runs on the board.”
With the series win, UCLA has won its last five Pac-12 conference series. The No. 11 Bruins will have a short turnaround this week, travelling to Tempe, Ariz. to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a three-game series starting Thursday.
Savage said his team will be tested in a way it hasn’t yet so far this year, heading on the road for the first time in conference play against a talented Sun Devil pitching staff.
“It’s going to be the biggest challenge we’ve had so far on the road for sure,” Savage said. “We have a ton of respect for ASU so we know we’re going to have our hands full.”