-Bumped. BN Eds.
Our #21-ranked baseball team will take a break from conference play this weekend, and instead go to work with a freeway series against Long Beach State. Coach Savage's squad will be looking to pick up some momentum over the weekend after dropping last weekend's series to Arizona State but bouncing back on Tuesday against LMU. For this weekend, the Friday night and Sunday afternoon games will be played in Long Beach, while the Saturday afternoon game will be at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The Bruins currently stand at 6-3 in Pac-12 play, which has them tied for a three-way tie for second with Oregon and Oregon State, and find themselves two games behind the Washington Huskies. Something will have to give at the top of the standings, as the Ducks visit the Huskies, while the Beavers will take on Stanford.
Overall on the season, UCLA is 17-10, while the usually strong Long Beach State program finds itself struggling around .500, currently standing at 13-14 overall. Both teams are looking to get something going with just about two months of the season left.
Turning to the series itself, on Friday night, Coach Savage will send out our ace, James Kaprielian (4-3, 2.98 ERA) where he'll square off against right-handed sophomore Andrew Rohrbach (4-1, 2.27 ERA). The Bruins are 4-3 in Friday games, all of which have started by Kaprielian. So far, Friday night affairs have been fairly low scoring, with the average score being 3-3, with all but two of those games being decided by two runs or less.
Like the Bruins, Long Beach State is also 4-3 in Friday games, but some of those wins have come in blow-outs against minnows like Utah Valley and Cal State Northridge. But it does include a very impressive 11-0 beat-down of Arizona State, so while their record is mediocre, the Bruins cannot sleep on the Dirtbags, especially not with Rohrbach on the hill. He started the season as the Saturday starter, and moved into the Friday role last weekend. On the year, Long Beach State is 5-2 in games which Rohrbach has started, including a big win at Cal State Fullerton.
On Saturday, the Bruins will send their usual Saturday starter, the southpaw junior Grant Watson (4-2, 2.70 ERA), out to the hill to square off against right-handed senior Josh Frye (0-0, 2.70 ERA). Frye will be making only his second start of the season, as the Dirtbags' rotation has been in flux with previous starters missing starts. Long Beach State has an impressive 5-2 record on Saturdays, most of which have been behind Rohrbach's strong pitching. Watson will be looking to pick himself up after a poor showing last Saturday against the Sun Devils.
Sunday afternoon will wrap up the series and UCLA will put regular Sunday starter Cody Poteet (2-1, 3.35 ERA) on the hill against the left-handed junior Ryan Strufing (0-0, 3.00 ERA), who the Bruins have previously faced in their 2-1 win over Long Beach State on March 25. Strufing was the mid-week starter and has been slid up the rotation and will be making just his third start of the season. He only lasted two innings, giving up one run on three hits before getting the hook. The Bruins have been strong behind Poteet, going 5-2 in Sunday games, while Long Beach State has struggled on the final weekend day, going just 1-5.
Overall, this series sets up nicely for the Bruins, with the scrambled rotation for Long Beach State likely to put extra pressure on their inexperienced staff. This is a series that UCLA absolutely has to win, to both build some momentum going back into the conference slate, but to maintain their position for a postseason run.