Base coach Jake Silverman (19) looks on while the UCLA dugout watches the offense go to work vs. OSU, Credit: Jeff Poirier
After sweeping the NCAA Los Angeles Regional last weekend, the UCLA baseball team earned the right to play for a spot in the 2013 College World Series. The only thing standing between the Bruins and a return trip to Omaha is their Super Regional opponent, Cal State Fullerton.
The Titans have as good a claim as any to advance to the CWS this season, as they’ve put together a 51-8 record and earned the No. 5 national seed in the tourney. UCLA will have an uphill climb playing at Fullerton’s Goodwin Field, needing to take 2-of-3 behind enemy lines to punch their ticket to the next round. So for good reason, head coach John Savage decided to get the Bruins there as early as possible to get settled in.
Despite the fact that the UCLA campus is in the throes of dead week as students prepare for their final exams, the baseball team departed today for OC. It’s only an hour drive from Westwood to Fullerton, but Savage clearly wants his team locked in when game day rolls around. The Bruins have already played at Goodwin once this season, a 5-2 loss in a midweek game back in May. It was UCLA’s second loss of the year against the Titans, who also took a decision at Jackie Robinson Stadium in early April.
The Bruins need to get the Navy and Orange monkey of their back this weekend, but it won’t be easy. CSF will send its best arms to battle this weekend, headlined by undefeated Saturday starter Justin Garza. The true freshman right-hander is 12-0 in 16 starts, with a microscopic ERA of 1.92. The opposition is batting a paltry .205 off him, and have only managed 23 earned runs in 108 innings pitched. If UCLA is going to win this series, they will likely have to get it done against the other weekend starters in Thomas Eshelman (12-2) and Grahamm Wiest (9-3). Clearly, getting the bats going will be the key to success for the Bruins this weekend.
I have faith that the UCLA rotation can keep it close against the CSF offense, but the Bruins will have to step up to the plate to take advantage. A quick start, like the one against San Diego in the Regional final, is probably the best way to get the Titans’ pitching staff unsettled.
However, if UCLA finds itself in a quick hole, it’ll be tough to fight back in hostile territory. The Bruins are not built to come back from big deficits, so establishing the offense right off the bat is the way to go this weekend. Let’s see if the full day in Fullerton can get UCLA where it needs to be to win and steal a slot in a second straight CWS.
Check back soon for complete previews of the CSF offense and pitching staff before game time on Friday. And make sure to tune into ESPN2 this weekend to watch all of the Super Regional action as it unfolds live.
Go Bruins! Beat the Titans!