Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium was slated to be a must see pitching matchup, but UCLA continued their early season dominance with a 9-2 victory over the previously unbeaten Vanderbilt Commodores. UCLA’s Gerrit Cole squared off against Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray, who were both members of Team USA over the summer.
Gerrit Cole was beyond shaky early as he hit three batters in the first inning, but somehow was able to not give up a run in the first, and ended up striking out 7 in the first 3 innings, finishing with 8 for the contest. Sonny Gray looked like he was going to be the better pitcher in the game, striking out 4 of his first 6 batters faced, but let the leadoff hitters in the next two innings triple and double, and both ended up scoring, leaving the Vandy in a 2-0 hole.
On Tuesday night against Long Beach State, the Bruins had a 3-run fifth inning with the top of the lineup seeing starting pitcher Eddie Magallon for the third time through the lineup, even though two of those runs were unearned. Friday night, UCLA had another big fifth inning after already being up 2-0. The Bottom of the 5th started off with a beauty of a one-out bunt by Cody Regis towards third baseman Jason Esposito, who was in no position to make a play on the ball. Two straight singles and a walk later, Gray was forced out of the game after 81 pitches. The Bruins ended up scoring six in the inning, highlighted by a Brent Krill 2 RBI double, and Vanderbilt was effectively out of the game down 8-0.
To Vanderbilt’s credit, they did jump on Cole with a single and double to start the 6th, with Cole being subsequently yanked from the game. Vandy ended up scoring 2 in the inning but that was really it for them offensively for the rest of the night as they had a single in each inning in the 7th and 8th of Erik Goeddel. Bruin closer Dan Klein looked impressive in the Top of the 9th as he struck out the Vandy 3-4-5 hitters to end the game.
This was an interesting matchup to see not just because of the Cole/Gray matchup, but because this was the first time either of these teams were seeing teams that are relative locks for the postseason. UCLA looks fantastic with a 5-0 record, and the future looks great with Cole coming back for another year and most of their starting lineup being underclassmen. UCLA hosts Oklahoma State, and looks to take down another undefeated team as the Cowboys won their first game they have played this season against USC at Dedeaux Field in extra innings.
UCLA’s best start to a season was in 1997 when they started the year off with 7 wins.