The No. 7/11 UCLA baseball team followed up a successful showing in the Dodgertown Classic with a midweek victory over the Cal State Northridge Matadors, 5-4. It was the third midweek contest of the year for the Bruins, who now own a 3-0 record in such games, and a streak of 14 straight dating back to 2012.
But just like last week in Long Beach, UCLA went down to the wire in Northridge to keep the impressive run of Tuesday wins alive.
The Bruins (12-3) survived a stagnant offensive afternoon by taking advantage of six errors committed by the Matadors. Despite scattering nine hits throughout the game, UCLA only posted two RBIs as a team, both coming from third baseman Kevin Kramer. The catalyst for the Bruins was really CSUN’s defensive misfortune, which spotted the visiting team three unearned runs, including one each in the seventh and eighth innings to ice the game.
Freshman Cody Poteet got the nod to take the hill, but got roughed up a bit early on. The Matadors exploded for a 4-run third inning to take a 4-2 lead, forcing Poteet into some very precarious pitches. And while the young right-hander maintained composure, he ultimately boarded the bus with another no-decision in his pocket. Poteet remains at 1-0 on the year after his 5.0 inning, four run, two hit appearance.
In relief, junior Zack Weiss earned the W (his first of 2013) after holding Northridge hitless in the seventh inning. Then the always dependable David Berg came on and tossed two scoreless frames to earn his fourth save of the season. Of the seven batters that Berg faced, he fanned four of them to close it out for the Bruins. Yet again, it appears that the bullpen is a major strength of this UCLA squad, and it will be relied on to win games in crunch time.
UCLA has now come out on top in 9-of-10 games, while CSUN (6-11) has dropped 10 of its last 12 decisions. For the Bruins, there have to be some mixed emotions regarding this one. As the old adage goes, a win’s a win. But given the Matadors’ underwhelming resume, UCLA would probably feel much more confident with a larger margin of victory. For reference, consider how CSUN has fared against some other Pac-12 teams recently.
After dropping 2-of-3 against Southern Cal (6-8), the Matadors only managed one win in a four-game series at Washington State (9-6) before going 0-for-2 in Eugene vs. No. 12/16 Oregon. The Cougs outscored Northridge 17-7 in their three victories, while the Ducks flew by with a scoring gap of 16-5. Clearly, Pac-12 teams are expected to take care of business against opponents like CSUN, and the easier the better.
Peering into the crystal ball, the coming weekend brings the start of conference play for UCLA, as Washington (4-11) will head south for a three-game set at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Huskies are easily one of the weakest teams in the otherwise stacked Pac-12, so this is a prime opportunity for the Bruins to secure a coveted sweep right off the bat. In order to stay on pace as one of the favorites in the conference, UCLA needs to at least take two games and win the series against UW.
The schedule for the series is standard, with first pitch slated for 6 PM PST on Friday, 2 PM on Saturday and 1 PM on Sunday. After handling the Huskies, the Bruins will have a week of rest before hosting the California Golden Bears (9-7) next weekend.