With two pitching performances that could only be described as gems, UCLA baseball ensured itself an away series win going into Sunday after beating Oregon 1-0 for the first two nights.
But mistakes on every side of the ball led to a 5-3 loss in the series finale.
The team managed to rally up more offense on Sunday than in the previous two games combined, but the main lesson of the weekend was the importance of UCLA’s powerhouse pitching.
It is clear at this point in the season that the Bruins this year just are not an offensive squad. They rely on arms on the mound – both starters and the bullpen – to hold down the other team while they muster all they can get at the plate.
Playing at Oregon made this even tougher, as they faced a big stadium, field turf that made it hard for the balls to get far past the infield and strong pitching from the Ducks.
“We hit some balls hard (on Sunday), we had better at-bats and we did better offensively,” said junior center fielder Brian Carroll. “It just didn’t fall our way.”
Friday and Saturday were prime examples of this, with juniors Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig delivering glowing performances that made up for a lack of any offense at all, with sophomore David Berg coming in both nights and junior Zack Weiss also helping out on Saturday.
“I was very proud of (Plutko and Vander Tuig), they showed their experience and we needed it, with two one-run games every pitch is high importance,” said coach John Savage. “They’re detailed guys and that’s all you can do is approach it the right way, those guys are great examples for the rest of our team.”
While the bats got better on Sunday afternoon, the arms were worn out as they allowed five runs to the Ducks, most of which came in one big fifth inning rally.
However, a series win is a series win, and Oregon is a major Pac-12 opponent. It is currently slated at No. 10 in the rankings, and UCLA is a few spots back at No. 13, the wins were huge for the blue and gold.
“I think we did a good job of coming in here and realizing the importance of the series,” said sophomore catcher Shane Zeile.
The loss in the third game left the Bruins feeling somewhat incomplete, but the overall result was still a pleasing one for them.
“Any time you can go into Oregon and win, it’s a good weekend,” Carroll said. “We were hoping to finish the weekend, but we’re still happy.”