In basketball, we are reduced to holding our breaths hoping that UCLA can hang onto that all precious 2 seed going into the conference tourney. But in baseball, we are in the national discussion every year, thanks to Coach Savage and his program. These early non-conference series are interesting, as teams start the initial jockeying for positions down the line.
Portland was nowhere in the national preseason discussion, so the Bruins need to take care of business to avoid stubbing their toe with a series loss at home.
Cal Poly is the opponent for the next weekend series. And they are off to a flying start, taking the 1st 2 games over Kansas State, which is a projected 2 seed in the regionals in the Baseball America preseason forecast. Cal Poly won the Friday game 3-0. Starter Matt Imhof gave up 2 hits and struck out 14 in 7 innings. Closer Reid Reilly worked 2 hitless innings for the save. The Mustangs won yesterday 5-2. Starter Slater Lee went 6.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits and striking out 7. Reid Reilly picked up his 2nd save. The Bruins will clearly have their hands full next weekend.
Houston will be coming to the Los Angeles tournament, and will play the Bruins in early March. They are a projected 3 seed in the regionals in the Baseball America preseason forecast. Houston is off to a good start, beating Nicholls State 3-0 and 4-0 in the 1st 2 games. I wonder if their AD called Doughnut for scheduling tips after seeing our basketball schedule.
UCLA will play Long Beach State in a midweek game in March and a weekend home and away split series in April. Long Beach State has dropped the 1st 2 games at national power Vanderbilt. The scores were 5-2 and 6-0.
UCLA opens up Pac-12 play at Berkeley in mid-March. The Bears have started hot, taking 2 of 3 at home from projected regional host Texas. The Bears won the 1st game 7-0 on Friday. In game 2 yesterday, the Bears won 2-1. The Bears lost the nightcap 6-2. The final game of the 4 game series will be played today in Berkeley.
Washington State is the opponent for UCLA's home opener conference series. The Cougars have split with Bruins mid-week opponent and national power Cal State Fullerton. Cal State Fullerton won their home opener on Friday 12-0, but the Cougars came back and won yesterday in 11 innings, 9-7. The rubber game of the series is today. Washington State is projected as a 3 seed in the regionals in the Baseball America preseason projections. That looks like a pretty decent bet so far.
Arizona State is playing Baylor at home. Both teams are projected as members of the 64 team field by Baseball America. The teams have split the 1st 2 games, with Baylor winning 9-7 on Friday and the Sun Devils winning yesterday 7-4.
Arizona is hosting Kent State, with unusual results so far, to say the least. Arizona won on Friday 13-1, breaking the game open and chasing the Kent State starter with 7 runs in the 4th inning. But Kent State turned around and returned the favor yesterday, scoring 11 runs in the 1st inning on the way to an easy 14-5 win. Kent State is not projected to make the 64 team field, while Arizona is projected as a 3 seed.
Utah is at Sac State to open the season in a 4 game series, including a game tomorrow. Sac State is projected as a 4 seed in the field of 64, so this is a good test. And so far, Utah is holding their own. Sac State won the Friday game 3-2, and Utah won yesterday 2-1. Utah's pitching staff definitely looked solid so far.
$C is projected to make the field of 64 for the first time since Barack Obama was a junior senator from Illinois. They are hosting Northwestern, which is not projected to make the field. And the Trogans have survived 2 extra inning games, winning 4-3 in 11 innings on Friday, and 2-1 in 15 innings yesterday.
Stanford has been shut down by national power Rice, dropping the 1st 2 games in Palo Alto. Friday the Cardinal lost 10-3. Rice won yesterday 5-1. So far, no good for Stanford.
Oregon State is opening the season in Arizona. On Friday, they squeaked by Gonzaga 4-3. Yesterday, they stomped projected 2 regional seed Nebraska 15-7. Today they play Pacific. Without one of their ace starters pending a resolution of an eligibility issue, it may take some time to see how good Oregon State can be.
Oregon has won their opening series at Hawaii, taking the opener 3-2 and winning yesterday 10-5.
Washington managed to find a 4 team tournament in Texas, where none of the teams (including the Huskies) are projected to make the field of 64. Washington is 2-1 so far. They dropped their season opener on Friday to Air Force 14-9, and then won the nightcap against Michigan 8-6 in 10 innings. The Huskies beat host Texas State yesterday 6-1.
My vote for plus surprise so far is Cal. My vote for negative surprise so far is Stanford (based on the margin of defeats).