Nick Vander Tuig sat in the Bruins’ dugout during the eighth inning on Saturday, watching his team squander a three-run lead. After two hit batters and an error, Utah had cut its deficit to just one run with the tying run just 90 feet away at third base. But the junior pitcher, who was in line for his eighth win after holding Utah to just two runs in his six and two-thirds innings pitched, didn’t bat an eye.
Sophomore reliever David Berg came in and got the Bruins out of the eighth-inning jam before finishing the Utes off in the ninth to earn the save while Vander Tuig was credited with the win.
“I have complete faith in our bullpen and our defense. We’ve been really good all year long with the defense and the bullpen’s been great, so nothing to really be stressed out with,” Vander Tuig said.
It’s this air of confidence surrounding UCLA baseball (31-13, 14-7 Pac-12) that helped the team earn its first series sweep since March, and that will carry over into tonight’s game against Cal State Northridge.
Coach John Savage expects beating CSUN (29-18, 14-4 Big West) to be a tough task for his team.
“They’re playing as well as probably anybody on the West (Coast). They’re really making a run at that Big West and they’re right there. So they’re playing as well as anybody out here so we expect them to be good,” Savage said.
The No. 8 Bruins have been playing well themselves, as their rejuvenated offense has led them to four consecutive wins.
“Any time you can win a couple games, it builds your momentum and builds your confidence, so we feel pretty good,” said junior center fielder Brian Carroll.
But Savage is cautioning his team not to rely solely on the momentum it has built.
“Momentum is big in baseball, but what’s more important sometimes is your starting pitching,” Savage said.
“I think our guys all give us a chance. That’s all I ask, is our starters to give us a chance to win the game.”
Cody Poteet, the usual Tuesday starter, pitched well last week, throwing six scoreless innings. The freshman also tossed another one and two-thirds innings on Sunday without allowing a run.
With Poteet in a rhythm and UCLA’s batting continuing its consistency, the Bruins are in prime position to continue their strong play during this critical eight-game home stand, the Bruins’ final home stand of the season.
“We’ve been a good road team I think for quite a while if you look at the history, but at times we haven’t taken care of home field,” Savage said.
“We did last year where we made that run at the end and got to Omaha and we’re going to need to do that again this year.”
Having won six of their last seven games UCLA is heating up as the season winds down.
“The end of the season, it’s just whoever’s hot has a real good chance,” said junior infielder Pat Valaika.
“I think we’re picking up a little steam and it doesn’t matter how we did to start the season. It’s all about going forward and I think we’re going forward in the right direction.”