The numbers aren't pretty. There is no getting around Cal St. Fullerton's postseason dominance over UCLA throughout history, including recently. There is also no way of ignoring the way that the Titans have had the Bruins' number since John Savage took over as the UCLA head coach.
Starting in 1979, the Titans took two straight from the Bruins to eliminate UCLA and send Fullerton to the College World Series. In 2007, the Bruins and Titans met up in the Super Regionals at Fullerton's Goodwin Field. Two games and two defeats later, UCLA was heading home, while Fullerton was heading to Omaha. The next season, UCLA was in the Fullerton Regional and got the better of the Titans for one game, but dropped the next two and were eliminated by the Titans yet again. In total, UCLA is a mere 1-6 versus Cal St. Fullerton in the postseason having been eliminated all three teams they have faced off.
Savage's record versus Fullerton isn't much better. Unable to crack that Titan nut as the head coach at UC Irvine, Savage moved to UCLA and has been thoroughly manhandled by the Titans. In addition to two postseason eliminations at the hands of Fullerton, UCLA is 3-18 versus the Titans since Savage took the reigns of the program. No matter where you turn, Fullerton's dominance over UCLA is there and now, the Bruins must face those Titans again when they match-up in the Super Regionals at Jackie Robinson Stadium this weekend.
If history were the determining factor, playing the games this weekend would be unnecessary. If that were the case, Fullerton could be handed the College World Series berth that comes with winning this weekend's best two of three series. If history were the determining factor, UCLA wouldn't even be playing this weekend. The 2010 edition of the UCLA Bruins has broken school record after school record and has done things that no other UCLA team has ever done. Could taking down Cal St. Fullerton in the postseason be the next way they etch their name in UCLA lore?
For both UCLA and Cal St. Fullerton, the 2010 season has been unusual. UCLA has developed a reputation as slow starters, but this season, they won their first 22 games. While they're usually making the late run for a chance in the postseason, this season they got hot late to wrap up the national seed that traditionally had belonged to Cal St. Fullerton. Versus an always-tough non-conference schedule, the Titans couldn't pick up the wins they usually do. Instead, they had to run their way through an unusually weak Big West. As a result, this weekend has an unusual twist to it in that it will be played at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium instead of the Bruins making the trip to Orange County.
While history may be working against them, UCLA has made a habit of rewriting their history this season. Starting with the 22-game win streak to start the season and ending with not just one Regional win at home, but three consecutive to win the Regional, the Bruins have done things that has never been done in the history of the program. The Bruins' 43 regular season wins were the most in school history and when you tack on their three wins last weekend, you have the most wins that any UCLA team has ever had with 46.
If the Bruins are to continue to make waste of the UCLA record books by being the first Bruin team to eliminate Cal St. Fullerton in the postseason, it will hinge on their ability to keep the Titans off the bases. Fullerton has more power than in years past and will get one or two to clear the fences. When you have Nick Ramirez and Christian Colon, who have hit 16 home runs each, and then a handful of others with somewhere between six and nine home runs, you have power. The home runs will come, but the key for the Bruins is one, making sure those are solo shots and two, making sure they can't manufacture more runs.
Point one is self-explanatory. The Titans will hit a few out, but solo shots aren't killers. When those home runs are worth two, three and four, that's when UCLA will find themselves in trouble. Point two goes back to the classic Titan offense, when they didn't have a ton of power, but could move runners along ultra-efficiently. Even with their power this season, Fullerton can still bunt guys over, use the hit and run, go from first to third on a single and steal bags. If you let the Titans get a man on cheaply, via error or walk, you're opening yourself up to trouble.
At the plate, UCLA will have to find a way to capitalize on the opportunities presented to them. One thing that the Titans' pitchers do a great job is throwing strikes, as evidenced by their entire staff averaging just over two walks per nine innings. Without the chance to work many walks or get into too many hitter's counts, UCLA will have to be smart with their approach and make the pitches they can hit count. They will have to be aggressive on the bases to get every extra base available to them and then most of all, they will have to execute with none and one out. While two-out hits are often looked at as key, in past games it has been UCLA's inability to move runners along and then bring them in with one and two outs that has done them in.
History certainly gives Cal St. Fullerton the edge. Every number between the programs from the long past and recent past gives the blue and orange clad Titans the edge. History hasn't been an obstacle to the Bruins in 2010, though. Can they lay waste to the history books one more time and book their ticket to Omaha by taking two from Fullerton this weekend?