For once, it looked as if the UCLA baseball team might actually lose a game.
The Bruins trailed Cal Poly by one run and had only five outs left to do something about it. The fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium grew more tense pitch by pitch. Could this be it? Would UCLA finally lose its first game of the season?
Tyler Rahmatulla promptly stepped up to the plate and erased the doubt with one resounding swing of the bat, lining a double to the left-center field gap to score Marc Navarro and Niko Gallego and deliver UCLA a 4-3 lead. Closer Dan Klein shut the door with a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to clinch the Bruins' 19th straight victory.
It was about time UCLA baseball fans got a bit of drama. Rahmatulla, a sophomore second baseman who hits third in the lineup, was happy to supply the heroics.UCLA Athletics
Tyler Rahmatulla lined a two-run double Friday night to give UCLA (19-0) a 4-3 lead.
"I was looking for a pitch up to drive and I got it," he said. "The first pitch wasn't there, but I finally got a second pitch. I really have to give Niko and Blair [Dunlap] credit -- they had some incredible at-bats before me. They battled to get on base."
Sophomore right-hander Trevor Bauer battled as well after surrendering a towering three-run home run in the fourth that dug the Bruins a 3-0 hole. But the team's second ace kept UCLA within striking distance by going eight innings.
"I have a lot of confidence in the offense, so I knew if I just kept it at 3-0, they'd come through and get us enough runs to get the W," Bauer said.
After Steve Rodriguez grounded out to lead off the eighth, Dunlap singled on a sharp grounder to left field. Gallego followed with a stingy at-bat and poked a single to center, allowing pinch-runner Navarro to advance to third.
The stage was set for Rahmatulla. Here's the great call from John Ramey of the UCLA athletics radio network:
"Rahmatulla is night and day compared to what he was last year," coach John Savage said recently. "We knew he was going to be a special player, but last year was a difficult year for him -- he didn't play all the time, he had sporadic at-bats, he was a little tentative, which some freshmen are sometimes. He’s completely different guy offensively. He's using the middle of the field. He's not your prototypical No. 3 hitter but his numbers are showing that he belongs in that spot."
Rahmatulla is hitting a team-leading .437 (31 hits in 19 games).
"Feels good to put everything together," Rahmatulla said. "It's good to see that it's coming through."