UCLA Bruins head coach John Savage talks to pitcher Nick Vander Tuig (21), Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
The No. 17 UCLA baseball team has clearly hit a rough patch of late, losing five of the last seven, but the Bruins are hoping to climb back to form against Hawaii and Loyola Marymount this week.
UCLA (19-9) will host the Rainbows on Tuesday night before welcoming the Lions for a three-game set this weekend. The Bruins could really use some non-conference tune-ups before they get back to the slaughter of Pac-12 play.
Hawaii (7-21) is having a season to forget so far in 2013. The Rainbows (yes, that’s the actual mascot of the UH Manoa baseball team) enter the match at Jackie Robinson Stadium after UC Irvine swept them clean last week. The Anteaters outscored Hawaii 17-2, so the Rainbows never really had a chance.
In other words, despite UCLA’s recent downturn, Hawaii doesn’t pose much of a threat. The Bruins should be hungry to play after faltering against the nation’s elite the last two weeks. But before they can regain ground in the rankings, the Bruins have to get things going versus Hawaii. That will be the sole focus, and it will carry them on to the next one.
After starting a new midweek winning streak, UCLA will pair up with LMU (16-15) before hitting the road for another week of tough competition. The Bruins need to reaffirm that they’re a step above the rest in West Coast college baseball, and the next five games will give them ample opportunity.
The Lions started the season 6-10, but have since leveled off and are sailing above .500. They’re fresh off a 2-1 series win over the previously-ranked San Diego Toreros, so the Bruins won’t have much intimidation factor. But ultimately, UCLA will be the favorite here and should be expected to protect the home field. Whether they can continue their winning in Irvine next Tuesday is a little less certain.
For head coach John Savage, the games this week provide a chance to work out the kinks and get UCLA back on track. Against No. 7 Oregon State last week, weekend starters Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson both took losses, and the Bruins offense just never showed up.
With a road trip to Eugene on the horizon, UCLA needs to notch some easy victories and build momentum towards the duel with the No. 9 Oregon Ducks. If the Bruins can’t steal a series victory at PK Park next weekend, their Pac-12 title hopes will starting fading fast. The next two weeks will set the tone for the second half of the UCLA season.