Vander Tuig strikes out 11 as UCLA tops NM

Courtesy of UCLA Athletics

LOS ANGELES – Nick Vander Tuig struck out a career-high 11 batters, allowing one hit and one unearned run in eight innings, to lead UCLA past New Mexico, 7-1, in an NCAA Regional game before 1,601 at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Saturday night.

Vander Tuig (9-3) carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Trey Porras led off the frame with a double down the left field line. The sophomore right-hander from Oakdale, Calif., allowed three baserunners in eight innings.

The Bruins (44-14) pounded out 17 hits, advancing in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional’s winner’s bracket. UCLA awaits the winner of Sunday’s 3 p.m. elimination contest between New Mexico (37-23) and Creighton (27-29). UCLA will play the nightcap at 7 p.m.

Between the Bruins’ 3-0 shutout against Creighton on Friday night and UCLA’s 7-1 win over New Mexico on Saturday, the Bruins’ pitching staff has limited the opposition to a .070 batting average (4-for-57) in 18 innings.

“It was Nick’s night,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “He really came out and looked very aggressive with all his pitches. He established the fastball again like we did last night. You’ve just got to give him a lot of credit. He’s one of the hardest working guys in our program, and he came out and set the tone this evening.”

Vander Tuig received strong run support in his finest outing of the season. UCLA scored one run in the first inning before adding three runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings. The Bruins led by a 4-0 margin after scoring three in the top of the fifth, and New Mexico scored one unearned run in the bottom of the inning.

“It was pretty the same approach,” Vander Tuig said. “I attacked with my fastball like I usually do. New Mexico is one of the better hitting teams in the country. I just wanted to establish my fastball. I knew that they were going to be aggressive coming into the game.”

New Mexico starting pitcher Gera Sanchez (8-3) absorbed the loss, surrendering four runs and nine hits in five innings.

Cody Keefer went 3-for-3 with two runs, one double and one RBI. Beau Amaral went 2-for-6 with two runs and one RBI, while Jeff Gelalich and Trevor Brown each knocked in two runs for the Bruins.

Amaral led off the game with a single and scored three at-bats later on Jeff Gelalich’s fielder’s choice groundout. Brown provided the offensive highlight in the fifth inning with a two-run double over the head of left fielder Ben Woodchick. Pat Valaika followed with a run-scoring single to center field.

New Mexico scored one run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ryan Padilla opened the frame by reaching safely on a dropped pop fly by Keefer in left field. Padilla moved to third base on a fly out and scored on Trey Porras’ groundout.

The Bruins added three runs in the seventh, extending their cushion to 6-1. Amaral plated Shane Zeile with a single to left field, before Amaral raced home on Keefer’s double to right field. Gelalich followed with a single to center field and advanced to second base on the throw home as Keefer safely scored.

Leading 6-1, Vander Tuig still had a no-hitter intact entering the bottom half of the eighth inning.

“Going into the eighth, I was trying to slow everything down and make sure the game didn’t speed up on me at all,” VandeR Tuig said. “I give the hitter credit. I made my pitch and he put a good swing on it.”

Vander Tuig struck out the final two batters in the eighth inning and did not pitch in the ninth. David Berg recorded three groundouts and allowed one infield single in a scoreless ninth inning.

Creighton will serve as the designated home team against New Mexico in an elimination contest at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. UCLA will face the winner of that ballgame at 7 p.m. The visiting and home team designations will be determined prior to the start of UCLA’s contest.

NOTES: UCLA has won 16 of its last 18 ballgames and extended its winning streak to six games … Nick Vander Tuig has earned the victory in five of his last six games … David Berg has pitched in 19 of UCLA’s last 20 games … Jeff Gelalich has reached base safely in the Bruins’ last 16 contests … UCLA has advanced to an NCAA Regional final for the third consecutive season … the Bruins improved to 4-0 in the all-time series against New Mexico.