As far as road series go, this weekend's trip to Corvallis, Oregon where they will take on #15 Oregon St. (19-6, 2-1 Pac-10) is the toughest one #4 UCLA will have all year. It is also their first true road series of the season. The Bruins have played road midweek games, but those were one-off contests and not part of a series. UCLA has also traveled to play Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Missisippi St. and Oklahoma, but those were also one-off contests played at a neutral site over one weekend in Corpus Christi, Texas. This weekend marks the first time that UCLA, 23-2 on the year and 2-1 in the Pac-10, will play three games over a weekend in the another team's ballpark.
Goss Stadium is one of the Pac-10's tougher places to play. The Beaver faithful routinely fill the place with over 3,000 in attendance and they are a rowdy bunch. Toss is an infield that is all turf save the mound and home plate and you have some things to battle through if you're going to come away from Corvallis with a series win. Luckily for the Bruins, it appears as if the weather gods will shine upon them with sun and temperatures that won't dip below 50 all weekend.
For all the obstacles that make winning at Goss Stadium difficult, the team that the Beavers throw on the field is the toughest of the obstacles. Two-time College World Series Champions and one of the Pac-10's better teams over the past ten years, head coach Pat Casey has a program that makes things tough on any opposing team. The Beavers are always strong on the mound and with the gloves and this year is no different. Oregon St. brings a 2.94 team ERA into the weekend and their .970 fielding percentage is fourth in the Pac-10. The Bruins counter with the nation's best team ERA at 2.43 and the best strikeout rate per nine inning in the country at 12.2. Needless to say, those in attendance will be witnessing two of the best pitching staffs in the country where runs are at a premium.
The problem the Beavers have is scoring runs, checking in with the Pac-10's worst batting team average to .271. They do manage to score more runs than their low batting average would suggest, scoring 7.1 runs a game, but the Bruns easily best them with 8.3 runs per game and a .347 batting average, third in the conference. UCLA also has the edge in individual hitters with Tyler Rahmatulla hitting .422, good for fifth in the conference. Dean Espy, Justin Uribe and Blair Dunlap are all in the top 13 in batting average in the conference and Dunlap leads the conference with 14 doubles. Oregon St. only comes up in the conference leaders one with Stefen Romero's six home runs good for second in the conference.
Friday night's series opener (5:30 pm PST) will see two of the nation's best right-handers take to the hill. For UCLA, Gerrit Cole will take to the mound armed with a 6-0 record, 2.49 ERA, 12.68 strikeouts per nine innings (ninth in the nation) and .157 opponent's batting average (best among Pac-10 starters). The sophomore has battled command problems of late though and turned in his two worst starts of the season in the past two weekends. He'll have to find his command if he wants to best Oregon St.'s Greg Peavey, a junior who enters the weekend 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA. Peavey doesn't have eye popping strikeout numbers, but the strong right-hander throws strikes and is coming off of another strong performance in which he allowed just one run on three hits in a win over USC last weekend.
On Saturday (2 pm PST), UCLA will have Trevor Bauer toeing the rubber for them. The sophomore is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA, but he got knocked around pretty good last weekend versus Stanford. While only one run was earned because of an error and all but one run coming with two outs, Bauer got hit hard in a rough fifth inning that he gave up seven runs in and didn't even make it out of. The right-hander made a couple of his best starts last season after his poorer ones so that bodes well for the Bruins on Saturday.
The series finale on Sunday (12 pm PST) will have Rob Rasmussen getting the start for the Bruins. The left-hander has earned wins in his last four starts to improve to 4-0, has a 2.95 ERA and 13.49 strikeouts per nine innings (fourth best in the nation). It's very possible that like last week, Rasmussen will eb charged with winning the series for the Bruins after a split of the first two games.
UCLA's rotation is set, but Oregon St. has yet to announce starters for Saturday and Sunday. If last week was any indication, Sam Gaviglio and Tanner Robles will be the guys to get the starts. Gaviglio is a highly touted sophomore right-hander who was injured in the early part of the season so he made his first five appearances out of the bullpen before earning his first start last weekend. Gaviglio is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA and allowed two runs (one earned) in 5.1 innings last weekend. Robles is a southpaw that is 4-3 in seven starts this season with a 2.38 ERA and over a strikeout per inning.
With Arizona St. already off to a 5-1 start in conference, this weekend looms large for both teams as they chase the Pac-10 title. The Sun Devils end the season with a brutal stretch of series so the key for any challenger is to stay close and make a move late when ASU is battling the conference's tougher teams. The task of staying close begins this weekend for both UCLA and Oregon St. The Bruins have to prove they can get things done on the road and no series will test them more away from Los Angeles this season, while the Beavers cannot afford to lose home a series.
Things get underway on Friday at 5:30 pm PDT and continue on Saturday at 2 pm PDT before conclusing at noon PDT on Sunday. There will be game threads up for all three contests with links to GameTracker. The Bruins will not have audio up in Corvallis, but the Beavers will be providing it. Oregon St. also has streaming video online, but it does require a fee. Links to it all will be in the game threads and as always, you can follow along with everything UCLA baseball on my UCLA baseball twitter.