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#13 UCLA Goes For 14, 15 & 16 At Home Versus Oral Roberts

Steve Rodriguez is tied atop the Pac-10 in homers with five for a potent UCLA offense (Photo Credit: Official Site)
Steve Rodriguez is tied atop the Pac-10 in homers with five for a potent UCLA offense (Photo Credit: Official Site)

They've beaten some pretty poor teams, they've beaten some mediocre teams and they've beaten some very good teams. Now, #13 UCLA will have to go back to trying to beat a pretty poor Oral Roberts team for three games at Jackie Robinson Stadium this weekend. Besides having to deal with maintaining a perfect 13-0 record, the scrutiny that goes with it and not losing focus against a lesser team, the Bruins will also have to deal with playing after finals week, meaning they did not have a midweek game or much practice since beating Oklahoma on Sunday.

Oral Roberts has won their conference in each of the past 12 years and were a Super Regional team as recently as 2006 so the Golden Eagles have a history of strong teams, but the 2010 edition of the Golden Eagles looks to be one of their worst in years. Oral Roberts enters this weekend 5-7 and they are only that good because of a sweep over lowly Western Michigan last weekend.

The Golden Eagles have yet to find anything that resembles a pitching staff, accumulating an 6.64 ERA on the year, but one that checked in at 8.73 before their series with Western Michigan. Seven different Golden Eagle pitchers have started a game this season and only two Golden Eagle pitchers have started three games this year. One of those two made his third start on Tuesday so odds are, he won't start this weekend. Head coach Rob Walton has yet to announce his pitching probables for this weekend, but there's a good chance that we see at least one game, if not two, where ORU goes to pitching by committee regardless of who starts with several guys throwing a couple innings each.

UCLA will start Gerrit Cole on Friday night (6 pm PST) and hope that he can replicate the 7.2 inning, two run (one earned), 15 strikeout masterpiece he threw last weekend. The sophomore has a 4-0 record, 2.10 ERA, 41 strikeouts (2nd best in the nation) and .136 batting average against (7th best in the nation) on the year.

Saturday's tilt (2 pm PST) will feature Trevor Bauer on the mound for UCLA, the right-hander who is averaging over 15 strikeouts per nine innings this season. Bauer's start last weekend was every bit as good as Cole's going eight-plus innings, allowing two runs and striking out 15 of his own in a start that had to remind some that he was actually the 2009 National Freshman Pitcher of the Year. With a 3-0 record and 2.38 ERA on the year, Bauer is picking up right where he left off in 2009.

Rob Rasmussen will get the nod for the Bruins on Sunday (1 pm PST) in hopes of carrying on the form he showed last weekend in his best start of the year. The southpaw struck out seven batters in six innings of five hit, one run ball versus one of the best teams UCLA has faced this year, Oklahoma. On the year, Rasmussen's ERA is down to 2.79 and he's held opposing batters to a .233 batting average.

The UCLA starting pitchers benefit from having an outstanding bullpen behind them. Dan Klein has a team-high nine appearance this season and three saves. The redshirt sophomore has yet to allow an earned run in his 11 innings and has struck out 14. Matt Grace has made eight appearances, striking out nine in 5.1 scoreless innings. Erik Goeddel holds a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in ten innings, while Mitchell Beacom's 1.69 ERA and Garett Claypool's 1.84 ERA give the Bruins two more options in relief.

Those relievers, along with the starters, will be charged with stopping an Oral Roberts offense that has struggled to get things going in 2010. 13, 15 and nine run outputs versus Western Michigan bumped an average runs per game for Oral Roberts up to almost seven runs a game, but prior to that series last weekend, the Golden Eagles were hitting just .271 as a team with just 16 extra base hits in 288 at-bats.

While Oral Roberts is struggling to hit, UCLA is most certainly not. The Bruins are hitting .355 as a team, good for tenth in the country and their .546 slugging percentage is ninth in the country. Tyler Rahmatulla's .420 batting average leads the team and his five stolen bases is also tops on the team. Steve Rodriguez's five home runs are tied for the best in the Pac-10, while every Bruin with more than 20 at-bats is hitting over .300 with an on-base percentage over .370.

The series gets underway Friday at 6 pm PST and continues on Saturday at 2 pm PST with it all wrapping up on Sunday at 1 pm PST. All three games are at Jackie Robinson Stadium and tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for youth 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. You can also stay up to date on all things UCLA baseball from game updates to news to analysis to links on my UCLA baseball twitter.