As Kevin Kramer rounded first base, looking to center field while his soon-to-be home run soared towards the wall, it became clear that UCLA was well on its way to another Pac-12 series sweep. But the victim this time around wasn’t last-place Utah—it was defending national champion Arizona.
The sophomore third baseman’s three-run blast gave the Bruins an 11-3 lead in the fifth inning, all but assuring them the win on Sunday to lock up the perfect weekend. It was UCLA’s eighth straight series win over the Wildcats (talk about dominance), and was also the Bruins’ first sweep in the rivalry since the 1999-2000 season.
The 12-5 victory lifted UCLA’s record to 34-14 on the year (17-7 Pac-12), and kept the No. 8 team in the country on pace to host an NCAA Regional for a fourth consecutive season. After notching 10-2 and 7-1 wins in the first two games, the Bruins came into the series finale clinging to what little hope they have for a conference title. And though first-place Oregon State pulled off a shocking sweep at Stanford this weekend to maintain its edge in the standings, UCLA is still in the hunt with two series to go.
For Arizona, getting swept in Los Angeles was the latest disappointment in what many thought would be an impressive 2013 season. The 2012 College World Series champs slipped to 29-20 with the loss on Sunday, effectively ending their chances at hosting a postseason tournament. The Wildcats are currently 10 games behind the Beavers in the Pac-12 loss column, and are 0-9 against the top three teams in the conference (OSU, Oregon and UCLA). Unless head coach Andy Lopez can find some of the magic of yesteryear, Arizona looks to have a tough time defending its crown this season.
Looking ahead, UCLA hits the road for a non-conference game versus No. 4 Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday before heading across town for a three-game set with Southern Cal. The Bruins dropped a 9-6 decision at home to the Titans last month, and registered a 6-1 win over the Trojans in March.
An upset win over CSF would be a nice feather in the cap for John Savage‘s squad, but the real focus should be on ‘SC. With the Ducks and Beavers set to do battle in the Civil War this weekend, UCLA has a prime opportunity to regain some real estate in the Pac-12 title race. Three losses will be spread between the first and second place teams, leaving some wiggle room for the third-place Bruins to make a move.
But in order to take full advantage, UCLA will need to earn its first road sweep of the year, and its third straight in conference. If the Bruins can take three from the Trojans at Dedeaux Field, the post-Civil War standings could shine brightly on UCLA. Anything less and the 2013 conference crown will be on its way to Oregon.