For UCLA’s juniors, including top pitchers Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, the weekend series against Arizona likely represented their last regular season series at Jackie Robinson Stadium, with most slated to leave for the draft.
But it was Cody Regis, the Bruins’ lone senior who went undrafted last season, who stole the show. The second baseman had a career-best hitting performance over the weekend, in helping UCLA (34-14, 17-7 Pac-12) sweep Arizona.
He pounded out a career-high six runs batted in Friday, doubling his season RBI total in the process, and then matched a career-high in hits on Saturday, going 4-for-4 from the plate with two doubles and two RBIs.
“That’s staggering but true. It’s hard to describe,” said coach John Savage, when asked about Regis collecting more RBIs and extra base hits this weekend than he had all season.
“But this is a May and June operation, and we want to be playing our best in May and June. … (I) couldn’t be happier for him having been the only senior to come back from the program.”
A pair of bases-clearing doubles by Regis helped the No. 8 Bruins register a win over the Wildcats (30-19, 10-14) in the series opener. Plutko pitched into the seventh inning to pick up his seventh win of the season.
“I think you’ve just got to take it in perspective. Who knows how many more games I’ll have to play, or anyone for that matter, so you’ve just got to go and leave it all out on the field,” Regis said.
Regis wasn’t the only Bruin with something to prove. On Saturday, Arizona pitcher Konner Wade faced Vander Tuig – a rematch of the two starters from last year’s College World Series.
Vander Tuig sent a message early, striking out all three batters faced in the first, on his way to pitching seven and one-third innings and allowing just one run. Afterward, he admitted the game meant more to him after absorbing the loss in last year’s CWS game.
“This series meant a lot to me. My main focus was not to (make it) too much about me though. I tried not to change anything, tried to stay myself,” Vander Tuig said. “The team knew it was a big game for me also so I think that’s kind of what you saw there.”
UCLA closed out the series with a powerful offensive display Sunday on Senior Day, hitting three home runs in a game for the first time all season.
Sophomore first baseman Chris Keck hit his first career homer to the right field corner in the third. Sophomore third baseman Kevin Kramer matched Keck with a three-run shot of his own in the fifth, followed by junior shortstop Pat Valaika’s first-pitch solo home run to left in the sixth, which closed the scoring for the Bruins.
In addition to Regis, redshirt junior Ryan Deeter was honored on Senior Day and had a big role in the team’s sweep of the defending national champions. The reliever picked up the win on Sunday, coming in with no outs and the bases loaded with a four-run lead in the fifth, only to get UCLA out of the jam unscathed.
“It’s a great day for our families and our program, and a lot of guys stepped up on Senior Day. This one was really a memorable one,” Savage said.