Dan Klein anchors the UCLA bullpen that should be a distinct advantage for the home team this weekend (Photo Credit: Official Site)
UCLA's 2010 regular season has just three games left and those three games could determine where the Bruins go in two weeks for the Super Regionals, assuming they win their Regional. Before we get into those last three games of the regular season let's establish two dates for postseason field announcement.
- On Sunday, the 16 Regional hosts will be announced and expectations are that UCLA will be one of those 16, regardless of how this weekend goes.
- On Monday at 9:30 am PDT on ESPN, the entire field of 64 will be announced, with the three teams that join UCLA in their Regional and whether or not the Bruins get a national seed part of it.
On May 21, UCLA submitted bids to the NCAA to host both a Regional and Super Regional, so they have done their part to host both. Now, they just wait on the NCAA's decision, but a successful weekend versus Washington St. would make things easier.
The Cougars come into the weekend red hot, winning seven straight and sitting in third place in the Pac-10, just two games behind the Bruins. A single UCLA win this weekend would clinch second place in the conference, necessary for the Bruins to pick up a national seed, but it will not be easy if they are to continue their nine-game Pac-10 win streak. In a match-up of the the two teams with longest current Pac-10 in streaks, the two will be tested just before they hit the postseason trail. What will be worth watching is how the Cougars play on the road, where they are just 10-13 compared to 20-5 at home.
From a pure numbers standpoint, the Bruins have the edge. UCLA is hitting .310, fourth in conference and have a 3.12 team ERA. Meanwhile, the Cougars are hitting .300 and their team ERA is 4.44. The Bruins also have the edge in the field, where they are tied for second in the Pac-10 in fielding percentage, four spots ahead of the Cougars. Of course, the game isn't played on paper. The series will be played at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday (6 pm PDT), Saturday (2 pm PDT) and Sunday (1 pm PDT), where UCLA will have to average 795 fans per game to top 1,000 fans per home game this season.
When the series gets underway on Friday night, the Bruins will send Gerrit Cole to the hill opposite the Cougars' Chad Arnold as two of the conference's better pitchers square off. Cole battled himself some last weekend versus Cal, but worked through the tough Golden Bears' lineup to pick up the win in a 7.1 inning, five run outing. The sophomore still enters the weekend with a 8-2 record, 3.41 ERA, .202 batting average against and over 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Arnold brings with him a 5-2 record and 3.40 ERA despite not being an overpowering thrower. The right-hander allowed just two runs in six innings a week ago versus USC, but he did have some command issues, walking five. Even so, Arnold has had the Bruins' number for two years, limiting them to two unearned runs in six innings two years ago and two runs in six innings last season.
Saturday's game will feature UCLA's Trevor Bauer and Washington St.'s James Wise. Bauer was hurt by some shoddy fielding behind him last weekend, but he did manage seven innings of four run (two earned) ball in which he struck out seven. The start lowered the sophomore's ERA to 2.95 and bumped his record up to 9-3. Last season when Bauer faced the Cougars he allowed four runs in 6.2 innings to get the win. Wise hasn't pitched versus the Bruins before, but this season he has made 12 appearances, six of which were starts. The junior is 3-1 with a 4.24 ERA on the year after allowing three runs in six innings a week ago versus the Trojans in Pullman.
The series and regular season comes to a close on Sunday with Rob Rasmussen toeing the rubber for the Bruins at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The junior is coming off of a sensational start in which he allowed just one run on two hits in 6.2 innings to pick up Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors. Rasmussen's ERA is down all the way to 3.00 and he holds a 8-2 record to go along with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Sunday is likely to be Rasmussen's final regular season start in a Bruin uniform so he'll surely be looking to make it count. Meanwhile, Washington St. has yet to announce a starter for the series finale, but if last week is any indication, Adam Conley will get the nod. Conley had been the Cougars' ace closer for most of the season, but a week ago he managed eight innings versus SC and allowed just two runs so he proved he can start a game as well as he closes them.
This weekend's three-game set will be a nice primer for the Bruins as they prep for the postseason. The series starts on Friday at 6 pm PDT and continues at 2 pm PDT on Saturday before concluding on Sunday at 1 pm PDT. Tickets for the games are $7 with children being admitted for $5 and free admission for Wooden Athletic Club cardholders. For those of you that can't make it out, you can follow along on GameTracker or listen in with John Ramey on the call. You can also get your game updates, links and everything related to the program on my UCLA baseball twitter.