Following a sweep of Washington last weekend, the Bruins lost a midweek game against UC Riverside to drop their record to 17-20. The Pac 10 looked likely to get only two teams into a regional only two weeks ago, but USC and Washington St. have both come on strong and are now probably right on the bubble. Both could fall on either side of the bubble and their late surge has added two more teams to the bubble picture. Those two teams play each other at USC this weekend in a series that coul decide which of the two get a regional berth. If you want a team to root against this weekend, look at UC Santa Barbara, The Gauchos have had a rough year and really need a series win versus Cal Poly this weekend to stay in the bubble picture. Luckily for UCLA, the bubble isn't overly strong this year. 30 wins may be enough to get the Bruins into the postseason because of their incredibly difficult schedule, meaning a 13-6 finish might be necessary.
The UCLA RPI is #87 right now, which isn't nearly good enough for a regional berth, but the Bruins do have weekend series versus Oregon St., Arizona St. and Fullerton left so their RPI should shoot up. The problem with playing tough teams like that is that the Bruins' record isn't strong and they need to win games, which won't be easy against the teams mentioned. The Arizona St. series is on the road and the Fullerton series will open with the Friday night game in Fullerton and the final two games at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Of their three most difficult series, Oregon St. is the only one they play at home so they need to make sure they get at least two wins this weekend and then look for a sweep of either Oregon or Cal, their two other Pac 10 series left this year.
In what has become a weekly theme for the Bruins (17-20, 9-6), they will take part in yet another series that they must win. This weekend it is a visit from #17 Oregon St. (23-9, 8-4) that has UCLA on their toes as they look to make a late regional push. Oregon St. is tied for second in the Pac 10 and coming off of a series loss to USC last weekend in Corvallis. Prior to that though, the Beavers had won 14 of their last 16 and were playing exceptional ball. OSU is the conference's best fielding team and don't beat themselves in any phase of the game so the Bruins will have to be ready to go from first pitch Friday if they want to pull out a series win. Friday's game will be televised on a tape-delay basis and will be shown in the LA area at 11 am PDT on FS prime Ticket on Saturday,
Friday night's match-up (6 pm PDT) will feature UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Oregon St.'s Tyler Waldron. Cole is coming off of a fantastic one hit, eight inning start last week against Washington. The freshman struck out 13 Huskies and allowed only two runs, both of which were unearned. Cole is 3-3 on the year with a 3.51 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 51.1 innings. Batters are hitting only .195 against Cole thanks to his electric fastball, which he's throwing as a two seamer more than a four seamer now. Cole's change-up is still a work in progress, but the two sliders he throws are developing nicely and he's showing enough confidence in the pitch to throw it in any count. The Beavers' Waldron is a sophomore who is playing with OSU for the first year after transferring from Pacific. Waldron's 4.81 ERA is the worst among Oregon St. starters, but he has managed a 3-2 record and he's averaging better than 6.1 innings per start. Last week versus USC, Waldron allowed four runs and five hits in seven innings.
UCLA's Trevor Bauer will look to duplicate his start last week this Saturday (2 pm PDT) when he faces off against Oregon St.'s Greg Peavey. Bauer earned National Player of the Week honors for his nine strikeout, complete game one-hitter last weekend versus Washington. The win was Bauer's fifth in his last five starts and improved his record to 6-3 on the year. Bauer has a team best ERA of 2.64 and has 58 strikeouts against 14 walks. Peavey is coming off a very good start last weekend versus USC when he allowed just two runs and five hits in 7.1 innings. Like Waldron, Peavey is 3-2 on the year, but has done so with a 3.94 ERA and while striking out only six batters per nine innings. Peavey, a sophomore, threw made a 5.2 inning relief appearance last year against the Bruins and allowed five runs to pick up the loss.
The final game of the series will see two juniors who have both had up and down careers take to the hill. UCLA's Charles Brewer came to UCLA with high expectations, but he missed the majority of his freshman year due to mononucleosis and never really found any consistency last year. This season, Brewer has a 1-4 record, but it's a misleading record. Brewer has pitched well for the Bruins, registering a 3.86 ERA and has recorded a quality start (at least six innings and no more than three earned runs) in four of his last five outings, including a one earned run, 6.1 inning start last week. Brewer will need better defense behind him against the Beavers on Sunday though. Over 1/3 of the runs Brewer has allowed in 2009 have been unearned. Last year against the Beavers, Brewer struck out nine and allowed only two earned runs in 7.1 innings. Oregon St.'s Jorge Reyes was the darling of the college baseball world two years ago when he was named the College World Series' Most Outstanding Player as a freshman. He was expected to be one of the nation's top pitchers, but struggled mightily and finished with a ERA over seven. This season, Reyes has bounced back with a 5-1 record with a 3.68 ERA. The Bruins tagged Reyes for five runs in only three innings last season when these two teams met.
The Oregon St. bullpen is outstanding, with four arms who have thrown at least 12 innings and have a sub-4.00 ERA. That doesn't include Kevin Rhoderick, the Beavers' closer who has a higher than expected 4.38 ERA, but has five saves and is averaging 14 strikeouts per nine innings. Backed by the Pac 10's best defense, the Oregon St. pitchers, and especially their bullpen, are tough to smack around.
The Beavers are fourth in the Pac 10 in runs, which is remarkable considering that they are last int home runs. Oregon St has only 12 home runs in their 32 games this year and their team leaders in the category are tied with three homers apiece. Those two players are 1B Jared Norris, who is batting .303 and 3B Stefen Romero, who leads the team with 33 RBI. Catcher Ryan Ortiz is the Beavers' top hitter with a .347 batting average and a team best 34 runs. Oregon St. is a very patient team at the plate and leads the conference in walks, while also striking out fewer times than any other Pac 10 club.
With Casey Haerther still battling a broken toe, Cody Decker has taken the lead for the UCLA offense. Decker went 3-5 on Tuesday night versus Riverside with a home and a pair of RBI and runs. He is now hitting .306 on the campaign with 13 homers and 34 RBI, both of which lead the team. Gino Aielli continues to lead the club with a .342 batting average, while Eddie Murray's on-base percentage sits at .469. Blair Dunlap has been moved from one of the first two spots in the lineup to the third spot with Haerther out and has picked up his power as a result. Dunlap hit two homers last weekend and now has 27 RBI, which is the second best on the team. He's still maintained some of the attributes that made him a one or two hitter earlier this year with 11 stolen bases this year.
Oregon St. seemed like a pretty safe bet to finish second to Arizona St. in the Pac 10 this year, but their series loss to USC and Washington's sweep over Arizona last weekend moved the Cougars into a tie with the Beavers. This makes the series this weekend for Oregon St. all the more important, just as this series is extremely important for the Bruins, albeit for different reasons. This weekend's series should be a good one with so much at stake for each team so come out to Jackie Robinson Stadium and check out some exciting baseball. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children and free for Wooden Club card holders. If you can't make it out to the games, you can listen to it or follow it on GameTracker via the official site. Also, keep in mind that you can watch Friday's game at 11 am PDT on Saturday on FS Prime Ticket.