Johnny Ruettiger leads Sun Devils past Bruins
Those gutsy little UCLA Bruins had nothing on this guy.
Johnny Ruettiger, nephew of famed former Notre Dame defensive end Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger, created his own spine-tingling memory for Arizona State on Friday night.
The center fielder drove in a pair of go-ahead runs with an eighth-inning triple at Jackie Robinson Stadium to spark the Sun Devils to a 5-1 victory in the opener of a three-game series between nationally ranked Pacific 10 Conference powers.
With the score 1-1 in the eighth inning, UCLA Coach John Savage turned to his bullpen after Arizona State’s Kole Calhoun stroked a leadoff double to right-center field off Bruins starter Gerrit Cole. UCLA’s relievers allowed the inherited runner and three more runs to score as the Sun Devils took control.
Bruins reliever Erik Goeddel walked the first batter he faced but fielded pinch-hitter Deven Marrero’s bunt and threw out Calhoun at third base, leaving runners on first and second with one out.
Ruettiger followed with his decisive two-run triple to right-center off reliever Matt Grace for Arizona State (36-5 overall, 12-4 Pac-10), ranked No. 3 by Baseball America. No. 5 UCLA fell to 30-8 and 7-6.
“He was looking fastball and got a hold of it,” said Grace, who failed to retire any of the three batters he faced. “That’s our job, to get out of situations like that, and I didn’t do it tonight.”
The decibel level generated by the crowd of 1,436 rivaled a library for much of the night as Sun Devils starter Seth Blair and reliever Mitchell Lambsen (5-2) combined to hold the Bruins to six hits and one run.
The Bruins’ offense was a model of inefficiency, leaving six men on base and going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
UCLA scored its only run when Dean Espy grounded into a double play in the second inning, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
“The last 10 days to two weeks we’ve had a tough time getting some runs in,” Savage said, “but all teams go in those ruts.”
The series resumes at 2 p.m. Saturday, with UCLA’s Trevor Bauer (6-2) facing Arizona State’s Merrill Kelly (8-0).