If you want to win a Pac-12 Conference title, you have to be able to win series on the road. No. 3 UCLA did that this weekend, rallying to win the final two games at Stanford, 10-0 and 9-3, after dropping the opener Friday night.
The Bruins' bats came alive for a combined 19 runs Saturday and Sunday at Sunken Diamond. Leading the way was junior catcher Darrell Miller Jr., who drove in three runs in each of the UCLA victories.
Miller, nephew of UCLA basketball great Reggie Miller, played sparingly his first two seasons, accumulating just 19 at-bats. But when Shane Zeile signed with the Detroit Tigers organization after being drafted in the fifth round last year, the door opened for Miller. He has taken full advantage, starting 34 of the Bruins' first 40 games this season.
He has been a stellar defender all year, and though he is batting just .256, Miller has found his stroke in Pac-12 play. On Saturday, he went two for four with a walk and a double to push UCLA (31-9, 16-5 in conference play) to a blowout win that evened the series after Stanford (18-23, 5-13) won the first game, 6-1.
He bested that Sunday, knocking three hits to go along with a walk. Miller's two-run double in the third inning put the Bruins ahead 3-2. They never looked back, adding two more in the inning and another pair in the sixth inning when Ty Moore and Miller both hit run-scoring singles.
The Cardinal trimmed the lead to 7-3 in the seventh inning and had the bases loaded, but reliever Grant Dyer got a fly ball to escape the jam. UCLA freshman starter Griffin Canning picked up his seventh win a day after Grant Watson earned his seventh win. David Berg got the final five outs on Sunday to earn his ninth save and push his scoreless-innings streak in Pac-12 play to 24 2/3.
With the win, the Bruins increased their lead in the Pac-12 standings to 1 1/2 games over No. 5 Arizona State, which played a nonconference series against Tennessee Tech this weekend. UCLA's next five games are out of conference before the Bruins head to Tempe, Ariz., for a battle for first place.
If Arizona State is able to sweep its series at California next weekend, the Pac-12's two top teams will face off with identical 16-5 conference records. First, UCLA will travel to Blair Field to take on Long Beach State on Tuesday at 6 p.m.