John Savage, Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
The UCLA baseball team finished off the 2013 regular season with a series loss at Stanford, but was still greeted with good news when the NCAA Tournament field was announced earlier today.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Bruins will host an NCAA Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium as they pursue another trip to the College World Series. At 39-17 overall, UCLA didn’t have the record necessary to earn one of eight national seeds, but the Bruins still ended up with a fortuitous draw.
Head coach John Savage was quoted on UCLABruins.com regarding his team and the direction of the program, which is one of only three in the nation to host a Regional four years running.
"We are very proud of the program’s accomplishments and are excited about hosting a Regional for the fourth straight year. That is very difficult to achieve playing in the Pac-12 Conference and is a testament to the hard work that the players and coaches have put in."
As the No. 1 seed in the Los Angeles Regional, UCLA will welcome San Diego State (31-29), San Diego (35-23) and Cal Poly (39-17) to Westwood in double-elimination competition this weekend. The Aztecs and Toreros both earned a spot in the tourney by winning their respective conference tournaments, while the Mustangs played their way in with a convincing, season-long body of work. Cal Poly is the only ranked foe that will challenge UCLA for a date in the Super Regionals, as the Mustangs have broken the Top 25 in the NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball and USA Today Coaches polls.
All things considered, it’s looking pretty good for the Bruins, who’ll kick off postseason play at 6 PM PST on Friday against SDSU. Assuming they take care of business, a date with the winner of USD vs. Cal Poly would be waiting on Saturday. In the three previous seasons that UCLA hosted a Regional, the Bruins advanced to the next round twice. The only exception was 2011 when UC Irvine stunned the home crowd by scoring two runs in the bottom of the 9th to knock off the defending national runners-up. But this season, the Bruins have their sights set on success.
If UCLA can get through the field and advance to the next round, a trip to Orange County to face No. 3 Cal State Fullerton in the Supers would likely be in order. The Titans beat the Bruins in two meetings this season, a 9-6 decision at UCLA and a 5-2 final in Fullerton. It really goes without saying, but the Bruins will need to find a way to get over the hump if they want to return to Omaha this year.
But before we can even worry about Fullerton, UCLA needs to focus on its own Regional. SDSU, USD and Cal Poly will all be fighting for their tournaments lives, and nothing would please them more than an upset a la Irvine’s two years ago. The Bruins will be favorites to clean up this weekend, but it’s up to them to go out and make perception a reality.