From Kurt Heyer pitching gems to walk-off winners, and offensive onslaughts, the Wildcats lately have been finding creative ways to win ball games. But when it comes to losing, the team has become as predictable as it comes. For the third time in Arizona's first four conference series, the team has taken game one and gone on to lose the next two.
A solid start by Heyer coupled with Joey Rickard three-run blast in the sixth propelled Arizona the Friday night victory, but UCLA's Trevor Bauer went the distance and shut down the Wildcat offense Saturday afternoon. Then there was Sunday. After leading 5-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth, the Arizona bullpen gave up six runs in the final four innings, eventually leading to the Wildcats' seventh conference loss of the season.
WildcatAuthority.com now breaks down the weekend that was in Southern California.
Friday 4/15: Arizona 5 UCLA 4
W: Kurt Heyer (6-1) L: Gerrit Cole (4-2)
Saturday 4/16: UCLA 4 Arizona 0
W: Trevor Bauer (7-1) L: Kyle Simon (6-3)
Sunday 4/17: UCLA 8 Arizona 5
W: Nick Vander Tuig (3-2) L: Matt Chaffee (4-2)
Player of the Series: This one is a no brainer. UCLA's Trevor Bauer went all nine against Arizona Saturday afternoon, allowing no runs on four hits, while handing Arizona its first shutout of the season. Bauer also racked up 13 punch outs, striking out every Wildcat starter out at least once, with the exception of Bryce Ortega. Bauer showed why he's considered one of the best pitching prospects in the nation, as he completely dominated the best offensive team in the Pac-10 and the third ranked offense in the nation. If Bauer can get some run support, this is a guy the Bruins can ride all the way back to Omaha.
The Unsung Hero: Former closer Bryce Bandilla had been caught in a downward spiral coming into the series, but he pitched a solid 3.1 innings of one run baseball this series. He still had two walks, but overall this was the kind of series Bandilla needed. Coach Andy Lopez called Bandilla's performance good enough to where he could "see the light at the end of the tunnel."
It wasn't a Cy-Young performance out there, but the Arizona bullpen is literally just begging for someone to step up and get outs; Bandilla may have just found his second chance.
1. Offensive Efficiency: When you consider whom Arizona was playing, 10 runs on 16 hits in games one and three are pretty efficient numbers. The Bruins entered the series holding opposing batters to a .189 average, but the Wildcats for the most part came through when they had their chances, only leaving eight stranded base runners Friday and Sunday combined. Arizona got to UCLA starters in both games, scoring all 10 series runs off Gerrit Cole and Adam Plutko.
2. Game 1: The Wildcats set the tone for the series early by winning the series opener. In fact Arizona is now 4-0 in Pac-10 series openers and is 11-2 in game ones overall this season. A lot of that has to do with Kurt Heyer, as he holds more conference wins than the rest of Arizona's pitching staff combined.
3. Playing With Champions: As much as it hurt to walk away with another series loss, the Wildcats know they easily could have earned a series win against a team that was in first place coming into the weekend. If it weren't for a two-run homer by Beau Amaral in the 7th inning of game three, we might be talking about this being one of Arizona's better weekends on the season instead of one of its worst.
1. Bullpen Inconsistency: Honestly this might almost even be a compliment. As erratic at the Arizona bullpen has looked at times this season, it actually pitched pretty well through the first two games, only surrendering one run in four innings.
In the finale however, it was right back to old habits, giving up five runs in 2.1 innings. UCLA may have a power pitching staff, but the offense at times this year would have had trouble hitting a beach ball, as the Bruins are ranked near the bottom of the Pac-10 in every offensive category.
2. Finishing the Deal: As inconsistent as the bullpen is, Arizona's performances after game ones in the Pac-10 are as consistent as they come. The Wildcats are 2-6 after game ones and 0-4 in series finales. This isn't a category where you want to practice your consistency.
3. Not Exactly California Dreamin': After this weekend, Arizona now has dropped seven straight series to the Bruins, with it's last series win coming in 2005. In fact, UCLA is one of only three teams in the conference that the Wildcats don't have an all-time winning record against. The other two schools are USC and Stanford, both California schools.
On Deck: The Wildcats now head up to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks in a three-game set, which will be Arizona's first non-ranked opponent in 10 games. The series will start Friday at 6 p.m. PT.
Series Recap: UA vs. UCLA
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