Things could have gone sour for Zack Weiss and the UCLA baseball team Tuesday against UC Irvine. Instead both showed the type of resilience that will be needed if the Bruins want to return to the top of the national rankings.
Weiss, who was caught in the middle of UCLA's ninth-inning meltdown Saturday at Stanford, pitched the best game of his young career as No. 20 UCLA defeated No. 18 UC Irvine, 6-1, at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Weiss, a freshman, pitched a career-high seven innings and gave up only three hits and an unearned run. He struck out four and walked one in an extremely efficient performance. He faced only 19 batters -- one over the minimum -- from the second inning on and needed only 86 pitches in his seven innings.
That's a far cry from Saturday, when Weiss contributed to UCLA's ninth-inning debacle in a 5-4 loss to Stanford. UCLA led, 4-1, with nobody on and two outs in the ninth before Stanford began a game-winning rally.
The Cardinal had tied the score at 4-4 and had the winning run on second base when Weiss entered in an attempt to get the elusive third out and send the game to extra innings. But Weiss proceeded to throw nine consecutive balls before coach John Savage pulled him.
The next Stanford batter got a flare to right for a game-winning single.
"It was important to rebound from that loss and have a strong game against a good team," Weiss said. "We needed this win after that loss."
It didn't start off that well for Weiss (4-1). D.J. Crumlich led off the game by reaching on a an error and later scored on a two-out single by Drew Hillman. Weiss then walked the next batter and it became nervous time before he got Ronnie Shaeffer to fly out to end the inning.
Weiss cruised after that. He hit Tommy Reyes with two out in the second, but Reyes was caught stealing. Weiss then retired the side in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings, needing only 25 pitches over those three innings. He gave up a harmless two-out single in the sixth, then took only eight pitches to finish the seventh in order.
"He was efficient," Savage said. "He didn’t strike many out, but that’s OK. Throwing strikes and putting the ball in play is the pitcher’s job."
Doing that job, Weiss said, was the key.
"That was a big key for me to get ahead and attacking guys and letting the defense play," Weiss said. "We have a great defense out here so I might as well let them play."
The midweek victory carried a little extra special meaning for Savage and Weiss. Savage is the former coach at UC Irvine and Weiss went to Northwood High in Irvine. But that meant little compared to winning a game against a ranked opponent after a heartbreaking loss.
"It was really good to get back out there and play a solid game after how we lost in heartbreak fashion," Savage said. "We always value a midweek win pretty high, especially against a team like that and in this situation."
UCLA closer Nick Vander Tuig, who took the loss Saturday at Stanford by giving up four consecutive base runners with two outs and was charged with four runs, also returned to the mound. He gave up a hit and a walk, but induced a game-ending double play.
Cody Regis had two hits and three RBIs and Dean Espy had two hits and two RBIs as UCLA (22-14) took a 5-1 lead after two innings and provide the Bruins' pitchers all the offense they would need. UC Irvine drops to 26-11.
UCLA now moves on to its biggest Pac-10 series of the season, facing conference-leader ranked Oregon State, ranked No. 9 in the nation, in a three-game set beginning Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.