Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA Baseball: Previewing the Washington State Cougars

The No. 9 UCLA baseball team is in Pullman, Wash. for another important Pac-12 road series starting tonight, this time against the 8th-place Washington State Cougars. The Bruins will be looking to end a two-game slide that included an 11-1 drubbing at the hands of Long Beach State on Tuesday, but it’ll be no easy task.

Though UCLA has won the last three season series over WSU, the trip to Eastern Washington is always a tough one, and the Cougs will be looking to hold serve at home. The last time the Bruins dropped a three-game set to Wazzu was in 2008-09, when the Crimson and Gray took 2-of-3 at Bailey-Brayton Field. The Cougars made it to the NCAA Tournament that season, winning a game in the Norman Regional, so the series loss wasn’t a shocker.

This season, Washington State (19-18, 6-9 Pac-12) will definitely be the underdog when UCLA comes to town, but that doesn’t take away from the gravity of the weekend. In fact, it could make the series even more intense. The Cougs had dropped five of their last six decisions, so they should be geeked up to get back at it.

The Bruins are two games behind No. 7 Oregon State in the Pac-12 loss column, and already lost the season series to the Beavers. Two wins this weekend is a must for UCLA to keep up in the conference title race, but a sweep would work wonders. When it comes down to it, the pressure is on the Bruins. WSU will be playing loose, looking to build some momentum in a season that’s already off the rails.

And to make matters worse, the predictive value of the “common opponent” analysis might actually favor Wazzu. The Cougs and Bruins have both faced Cal State Northridge, Arizona State and California this season. WSU went 3-1 against the Matadors, 2-1 against the Sun Devils in Tempe and 1-2 against the Golden Bears in Berkeley. UCLA, meanwhile, went 1-0, 1-2 and 2-1 against those teams, respectively.

The Bruins’ performance against Cal was dominant in comparison (albeit at home), while the numbers against ASU greatly lean towards Washington State. Overall, the Cougs’ 6-4 mark against common opponents outweighs UCLA’s 4-3 record. With that said, everyone knows that’s a cursory analysis, and won’t really mean much when they take the field in Pullman.

UCLA (25-12, 9-6 Pac-12) is in need of a big weekend to assuage the fears of the faithful. Another series of head-scratching miscues could spell trouble for the Bruins, both in the Pac-12 standings and the national rankings. Here’s to hoping Monday is a happy day for UCLA baseball!

Tonight’s game will begin at 6 PM, followed by 2 PM and noon starts on Saturday and Sunday. The games will not be broadcast, so the best bet for updates would be to follow @UCLABaseball on Twitter or to check-in with the live stream on Pac-12.com (cable provider verification required).

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Tags: College Baseball Ucla Baseball UCLA Bruins Washington State Cougars

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