The Dodgers are hosting their annual shindig this weekend, pitting UCLA Baseball against USC and two visiting teams in a mini round-robin tournament.
Until this year, it was called the Dodgertown Classic, but they’ve decided to host a similar event over in Vero Beach at the original Dodgertown Spring Training grounds, so the LA event is now the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic.
RELATED: UCLA Baseball Season Preview
Last year in this event, the Bruins came in riding high with an 11-1 record, set to host the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the nation (Vanderbilt and TCU, respectively) before facing off against USC.
It didn’t go so well. Vandy and TCU each beat the Bruins and lost to the Trojans, setting up a Sunday crosstown tilt which USC won to complete the sweep of the weekend.
This year, the Bruins come in limping, nursing a 3-5 record and appearing to be more in rebuild mode than we first expected.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 23, 2016
This afternoon, UCLA hosts #24 Mississippi State, who is 7-2. Tomorrow, Oklahoma (4-5) visits, and Sunday is the crosstown finale against 5-3 USC.
Perhaps this flipped script bodes well for the Bruins, but only to the superstition-minded. The evidence for a breakout performance is thin.
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I haven’t had a chance to break down the statistics yet, but UCLA’s offense has come in fits and starts but with far more fits than starts. The starting pitching has been a huge disappointment and has struggled to go even three innings unscathed.
The defense and bullpen, hallmarks of Savage’s good teams, have not bailed out the team, either, with some really ugly late inning collapses against UCSB, Cal Poly, Long Beach State, and North Carolina (tellingly, all four of UCLA’s opponents thus far).
Savage has called the play of this team disappointing, embarrassing and some of the worst baseball UCLA has played in 10 years, specifically citing the Bruins’ 14-5 loss to North Carolina on Feb 21 as ‘a meltdown in all phases’ of the game. So at least we got that going for us.
Again – and this may be a drum I have to beat all season – Savage has earned the trust and patience that it takes to mold this group of players into a team that can compete for a national title. Whether that’s by May 2016 or May 2018, he’s proven he can attract the talent and provide the coaching necessary to get there.
This season may be more about players improving and guys finding their places in the order and on the field. We’ll see. I’m not giving up on the season, but just adjusting expectations.
Other than when we play USC, of course. #NeverTrojan. Beat’em bloody. Go Bruins!