The non-conference schedule is finally behind the Bruins and #25-ranked UCLA will head north to the Bay Area to take on the Berkeley Bears in a three game set this weekend to kick off Pac-12 conference play. With Ryan on the road at the Pac-12 tourney in Vegas, this weekend's series preview is excellently done in Ryan's absence by islandbruin2. -BN Editors
UCLA begins the conference baseball season on the road in Berkeley.
On Friday night, James Kaprielian faces freshman Daulton Jefferies. UCLA is 2-2 in Friday night games. Kaprielian lost a heartbreaker 1-0 in the opening game of the season, won his next two, and then had his worst outing last Friday against Pepperdine. He was named the top prospect in the 2015 draft by Baseball America, and other than last Friday, he has only affirmed this status but his opponent on Friday night is no slouch.
The Berkeley Bears are 3-1 in Friday night games. Jefferies threw six shutout innings in his collegiate debut at home against Texas. He then threw seven shutout innings in his second collegiate game against East Tennessee State in an Auburn -hosted tournament. Jefferies got knocked around pretty hard his last two outings against Baylor and Tulane, not making it through the 5th, so the Bruins have to hope they can keep kicking the young man while he's down and that Friday isn't his bounce back game.
On Saturday night, Grant Watson faces senior Kyle Porter. UCLA is 2-2 in Saturday games. Watson has had two great starts, including a showcase win over All-American Carlos Rodon of North Carolina State. Last Saturday he would have picked up another win except for leakage from the bullpen, letting one get away against Houston.
Berkeley is 3-1 in Saturday games, while Porter has bounced around in the pitching rotation, starting on Saturday twice, Monday (equivalent to Sunday with a rain-out), and Sunday. The Bears are 4-0 in games which Porter starts, including wins over Texas and USD. It would be great if Watson can bring his North Carolina stuff to Berkeley. Porter has a sub 1.00 ERA, so this will be likely be a tense affair.
On Sunday afternoon, Cody Poteet faces a Berkeley pitcher to be announced later. UCLA is playing .500 ball on Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday, but we are 3-1 on Sunday. Poteet has the best ERA among the three weekend starters so far. He started off the season slow, but pitched a complete game two-hit shutout over Michigan to wrap up the North Carolina tourney sweep. Poteet pitched well in his last start against Southern Cal, but his defense was less than perfect behind him and he wound up with a no-decision.
The most likely starter for the Bears on Sunday, at least based on season stats, is either Michael Theofanopoulos, Alex Schick, or Alex Martinez. Berkeley is also 3-1 in a series' third game, and are 2-1 when Thefanopoulos starts, while only 1-1 when Schick starts, and a paltry 0-1 when Martinez starts. That said, Martinez's loss was a 1-0 defeat with a home run by future first round pick Bradley Zimmer of USF (San Francisco, not South Florida if Fox 71 is reading).
Unlike our Bruins, who were in action mid-week against UC Irvine, Berkeley did not play a midweek game this week, so all arms should be rested, which might give the home squad an advantage over our Bruins. The first game gets underway tonight at 7 p.m. PST in Berkeley, so we'll find out soon enough if conference play will treat the defending champs better than the non-conference slate.