The Bruins are currently 6-1, while Long Beach State is 5-2. This will be the first road game for the Dirtbags this season.
Last year, Long Beach State was 34-26, and advanced to the Gainesville Regional as a 2 seed. They knocked out last weekend's UCLA opponent, North Carolina, but lost twice to College of Charleston to bring the 2014 season to a close.
UCLA played Long Beach four times last year, with one mid-week game at Jackie Robinson Stadium, which the Bruins won, and a weekend freeway series with games at Long Beach, UCLA and Long Beach. Long Beach took two out of three, so the season series finished tied at two games apiece.
Tonight the Bruins look for their second consecutive midweek victory of the young season. Last week, the Bruins beat Cal State Northridge 7-3. Freshman Griffin Canning made his first midweek start and took the game into the 5th inning before giving way to redshirt sophomore Hunter Virant, who in turn gave way in the 7th inning to sophomore Grant Dyer, last year's midweek starter. Dyer pitched 1.2 innings of 1 hit scoreless ball to pick up his first win in 2015. David Berg came on as usual to close the game, albeit in a non-save situation. Canning will be the starting pitcher again for the Bruins in tonight's game.
Dyer will be familiar to the Dirtbags, as he threw six strong innings of one run ball to pick up the win in last year's mid-week game. David Berg picked up the save in the 2-1 UCLA win.
The Dirtbags knocked off Pepperdine 3-2 last Tuesday in their first midweek game of the season. Junior college transfer Ryan Cruz was the starting pitcher for Long Beach, and pitched five scoreless innings of 1 hit ball with 9 K's. Sounds like he will be a good test for the Bruin offense, which has been on fire this season. Sophomore Austin McGeorge picked up the win in relief and redshirt junior closer Ty Provencher picked up the save. Cruz will be the starting pitcher for the Dirtbags in tonight's game.
Long Beach State lost four players from last year's squad in the 2014 draft. They have some rebuilding to do. The Dirtbags were picked to finish 5th in the Big West conference in the preseason coaches poll, and were not included in the Baseball America preseason projected field of 64.
But Baseball America did predict that Long Beach would have the conference player of the year, in sophomore shortstop Garrett Hampson. He was a freshman All-American last season, batting .308 with 44 runs scored. Hampson has basically picked up where he left off, with a .304/.452/.435 line so far this season. Hampson has been batting 3rd in the order. Last year, he wore out the Bruins in the four game series, going 8-19.
If the Bruins can keep Hampson off the bases, they should be in decent shape. Long Beach has no player listed in the top 10 preseason conference prospects for the 2015 MLB draft.
Kevin Kramer is on that list for the Pac-12, and with good reason. His batting line so far this season is .433/.553/.633, with 13 runs scored. To show how hot the Bruins have been this year at the plate, Kramer's .433 batting average is only good for 3rd place on the team, behind Brett Stephens and Ty Moore, his .553 on-base percentage is also only good for 3rd place on the team, again behind Stephens and Moore, and his .633 slugging percentage is only good for 4th on the team, behind Moore, Chris Keck, and Luke Persico.
What a run machine the Bruins have been this season ! Let's hope they can keep the momentum going through tonight's game and into the weekend.
There are plenty of options to follow the game tonight. Unfortunately, orlandobruin missed his flight, so you will not be able to follow along here with his up to the minute reports, as he did for the UNC series. But if somebody wants to pick up the slack, that would be great.
Another option obviously is to attend the game in person at Jackie Robinson Stadium. There is no mention of a Dan Guerrero bobblehead, so there would not seem to be any downside from attending. There is also no mention of a Dan Guerrero voodoo doll, which is unfortunate, but you still get to see our top 10 team up close and personal.
The game will also be on Pac-12 Network, with J.B. Long and Randy Flores on the call. UCLA will also be providing a live audio feed with John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm (link here). And UCLA will also be providing live stats (link here).
So there are many roads. Let's hope they all lead to a UCLA victory. Game time is 6 pm. This is your open game thread. Go Bruins !!