LOS ANGELES – The No. 9 UCLA baseball team earned the 2012 Pac-12 Conference co-championship on Sunday afternoon, sweeping a three-game series against USC with a 7-6 win before 1,778 at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
UCLA (42-14, 20-10 Pac-12) secured the tiebreak over co-champion Arizona, by virtue of the Bruins’ series victory against the Wildcats in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this season. UCLA earned its second consecutive Pac-12 title, recording back-to-back conference championships for the first time in school history.
The Bruins have won 11 of their last 12 ballgames and will host an NCAA Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium next weekend.
In a tightly-contested ballgame, Pat Valaika drilled a two-run single to left field with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, snapping a 5-5 tie and putting UCLA ahead of USC, 7-5.
The Trojans (23-32, 8-22 Pac-12) scored one run in the top of the ninth but stranded runners on the corners to end the game. Scott Griggs (3-1) induced a game-ending groundout by Matt Foat and earned the victory in relief, allowing one run and three hits in 1.1 innings.
USC right-hander Martin Viramontes (1-2) was tagged with the loss in relief, surrendering two runs, one hit and one walk in one-third of an inning.
Shane Zeile went 3-for-4 at the plate for the Bruins, who also received two-hit performances from Tyler Heineman (2-for-3, two runs), Trevor Brown (2-for-5, two RBI, one run) and Kevin Kramer (2-for-4, one RBI).
Trailing by a 4-3 margin in the sixth inning, the Bruins took a 5-4 lead on Brown’s two-run, two-out single through the left side of the infield.
USC tied the game, 5-5, with one run in the top of the eighth inning. Trojans’ right fielder Alex Sherrod scored from third base on a strikeout and wild pitch with the bases loaded and two outs. Griggs escaped the Trojans’ threat by striking out Brandon Garcia on the next at-bat.
UCLA answered USC’s offensive threats in each of the second and fourth innings. The Trojans scored twice in the top of the second, before UCLA plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. Likewise, UCLA and USC each scored one run in the fourth inning.
Bruins’ right-hander David Berg struck out three hitters in 1.1 innings of relief, making his conference-leading 43rd appearance of the season. Berg appeared in relief for UCLA for the 18th straight game and finished the three-game series with seven strikeouts and one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings.
UCLA returns to action in an NCAA Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday, June 1. Game time and opponent are to be determined. The 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed on ESPNU’s 60-minute selection show Monday at 9 a.m. (PT).
Game Notes: UCLA has won 19 of its last 24 games against USC and swept the season series (4-0) against the Trojans for the third time in the last six years … the Bruins have not lost the season series to USC since 2005 … after walking the first two batters on four pitches, Chase Brewer escaped a fifth-inning jam with one double play groundout and an inning-ending groundout … listed as a redshirt junior, Brewer was honored before the game as UCLA’s lone senior in the annual “Senior Day” ceremony.