LOS ANGELES — Grant Watson needed only 77 pitches to pick up his third win of the season as No. 12 UCLA defeated crosstown rival USC 6-1 Sunday afternoon in the Dodgertown Classic at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Watson went seven innings, allowing only three hits and one run. He struck out three and didn’t allow a walk. The USC pitching staff was a direct contrast, giving up nine walks and two hit batsmen to go along with 10 hits allowed.
However, USC was able to tie the game briefly in the sixth inning on a solo home run from Vahn Bozoian and kept the game close until the eighth inning due to UCLA’s inability to drive in runners. In total, the Bruins stranded 14 runners. But it was the six they brought home that mattered.
The Game Changer:
USC starting pitcher Kyle Twomey was able to get off the hook time and time again. He had trouble finding the strike zone, though head coach Dan Hubbs’ barking at the home plate umpire throughout the game suggests Hubbs didn’t find Twomey to be the only one at fault. The freshman southpaw walked five and hit another and was removed after five innings due to his high pitch count. But Twomey left with a no decision because he pitched out of trouble in several innings. He allowed only one run. That came in the first inning. Brian Carroll tried to steal third and was hosed by Garrett Stubbs, but Carroll slid straight into James Roberts’ glove and the ball popped loose and rolled away, allowing Carroll to hustle home for the game’s first run.
What Twomey was able to do, reliever Sean Adler was not. Another freshman southpaw, Adler entered in the sixth inning and promptly loaded the bases. Ty Moore led off with a hotshot to third that ricochetted off Roberts’ glove for an infield single. Trent Chatterton followed with a walk and Brian Carroll was hit on the leg. Hubbs stuck with Adler against left-handed hitting Kevin Kramer.
Kramer provided The Game Changer with a rocket past a diving Kevin Swick at first base that rolled toward the corner in right field. With the speedy Carroll at first, the bases were cleared and Kramer easily made it to second for a three-run double that put UCLA on top 4-1.
Best Defensive Play: After Kramer put UCLA ahead, USC needed to make something happen against Watson. Senior second baseman Adam Landecker singled to lead off the inning. With the Trojans 3-4-5 hitters due up, here was their chance to put some pressure on Watson.
Instead, Roberts bounced a chopper up the middle to the second base side. Though he had plenty of time to catch and underhand the ball to the shortstop, Bruins second baseman Trent Chatterton chose to go with a glove flip. With his momentum carrying him toward second base, Chatterton backhanded the ball, flicked his wrist and opened his glove, shooting the ball over to Pat Valaika.
Valaika caught the ball, took his time, fired a strike to first and hopped over the sliding Landecker. Double play. Potential threat stymied.
Best Pitch/Pitcher: Grant Watson (3-0, 1.34 ERA) was tremendous and he’s made great strides to step up his game after being a mid-week starter/weekend reliever swingman last season. Coach John Savage goes into depth about Watson’s transformation in the Quotables section. Watson deserves more attention than he has received thus far this season, and he will get it as the season progresses if he continues to pitch well.
But the guy that I have to give props to is David Berg. Being a former sidewinder, who felt he could throw everyday, Berg is one of my favorite pitchers in college baseball. He pitched the ninth inning, allowing only one runner to reach — on a 20-foot dribbler. Berg never topped 83 mph on Sunday, but he’s nearly unhittable when he’s on, which has been about 95 percent of the times he’s toed the rubber for UCLA. His fastball, which registers as “Other” on the pitch type on UCLA’s tracking software, rides down and in on right-handed hitters and he has a slider that cuts across the plate.
Berg feels like he can pitch in every game and Savage uses him seemingly every game. Berg already has 60 appearances and he’s barely 1/4th of the way into his sophomore season.
UCLA starting pitcher Grant Watson talks about his strong start to 2013 as well as the Bruins picking each other up Sunday in the win against rival USC:
UCLA head coach John Savage talks about the maturation of Grant Watson during the offseason. He also talks about the Dodgertown Classic and see why he said Sunday’s win was a frustrating one:
- Vahn Bozoian – 1-for-3, R, HR, RBI
- Marc Huberman – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K
- Grant Watson – 7 IP, 3 H, ER, 0 BB, 3 K, Win
- Kevin Kramer – 1-for-3, R, 2B, 3 RBI (incl. GW RBI), BB
- Shane Zeile – 1-for-2, RBI, 2 BB
- Trent Chatterton – 2-for-2, R, 2 BB
The Bottom Line:
USC had an opportunity to show it can make some noise in the Pac-12 this season with a strong performance. The Trojans beat No. 17 Oklahoma on Friday and lost a tight game to No. 22 Notre Dame on Saturday, but they flopped against their crosstown rivals on Sunday.
You have pretty much no shot at upsetting the No. 12 team in the country when you allow 11 free passes (nine walks and two hit batsmen). That USC was still in the game in the sixth despite Kyle Twomey walking five, hitting one and allowing four hits, speaks toward the freshman’s fortitude and ability to make out pitches at crucial moments. He stranded nine runners and the only run to score came on Brian Carroll’s hard slide into third base that jarred the ball free and away from James Roberts.
But the bullpen did not pitch well. So far Nigel Nootbaar has been the only consistent arm out of the USC pen and he’s supposed to be the pitcher known for inconsistency. The four guys coach Dan Hubbs is counting on the most (Sean Adler, Sean Silva, Matt Munson, Kyle Davis) have combined for a 9.00 ERA in 29 innings of work. A big culprit is the 28 free passes the four pitches have allowed. Lefty Marc Huberman looked solid on Sunday in his inning of work and last Tuesday against Fullerton. He has allowed only one hit in his three appearances, so it might be time for him to get some more work.
For UCLA, a win against your rival is always sweet. It’s also great that the Bruins took the mythical title to the Dodgertown Classic since they were 2-1 and beat the only other 2-1 team, Notre Dame. However, John Savage was frustrated with the game afterwards.
UCLA had several opportunities to blow the game wide open, stranding 14 runners, including the nine against Twomey. The Bruins lost a ton of bats in the MLB Draft last year and there have definitely been some growing pains as guys have got their first real opportunity to play in the baby blue. Eric Filia and Shane Zeile are key guys in the lineup and neither has had a strong start. It was a good sign that Zeile reached base three times against USC. He worked two walks and had an RBI double to go along with a sacrifice bunt early in the game.
If Cody Regis ever returned to his freshman and sophomore form when he hit 15 home runs and drove in 92 runs, it would be a huge boost to the lineup, but the senior is hitting only .167. He’s been playing second base with Pat Gallagher at first. If Gallagher continues to hit, don’t expect to see much of Regis, who wasn’t in the lineup the last two games of the Dodgertown Classic, once Kevin Williams returns to full strength. Savage said he hopes to have Williams back by the time the team travels to Arizona State in three weeks.
Also check out the 18-shot photo gallery from Sunday’s Dodgertown Classic finale.