In a college baseball match up the city of Los Angeles has not seen in over a decade, the Southern California Trogans (25-7; 7-2 PAC 12) host the UCLA Bruins (23-6; 10-2 PAC 12) in a pivotal three game Crosstown Showdown that will go a long way toward who has the inside track to the PAC 12 Championship and the inside track to a potential national seed.
Historically one of the premier programs in the PAC 12 (5 consecutive National Championships in the 1970s and 12 overall), Southern Cal is finally fighting its way back to respectability. After several dark years in which U$C* baseball was at or near the bottom of the PAC 12, third year Head Coach, Dan Hubbs, has the Trogans in second place in the PAC 12 behind UCLA, and ranked in the top 10 of all national college baseball ranking services. The Trogans have not made the NCAA tournament since 2005. That figures to change this season. The Trogans have already played and beaten the Bruins in the Dodgertown Classic in Dodger Stadium, before over 14,000 fans, in a game that does not count in the PAC 12 standings. Last season, after losing to UCLA at Dedeaux Field, the Trogans then swept the Bruins in a three game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Trogans will look to continue to beat up on UCLA and extend their 4 game winning streak against the Bruins. Southern Cal has already beaten powerhouses Vandy and TCU, teams that UCLA lost to in the Dodgertown Classic. The Trogans come into the series having lost a mid-week, non-conference game against UCSB, 2-1.
UCLA is playing very good baseball. Although the Bruins have six losses, they have not lost a series all season. Last weekend, against a well-coached, young, and talented Oregon State Beaver team, the Bruins took 2 of 3, rebounding from a Friday loss. Although almost all of the college baseball ranking services have UCLA ranked ahead of the Trogans, the one that doesn't, Baseball America, has UCLA #7 and Southern Call #6. The Morgan Center is for some crazy reason promoting this game using those rankings instead of, say, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, which has the Bruins at #4 and the Trogans at #7. Nothing like putting your rival on a pedestal before the big game. It begs the question, if UCLA was #1 in NCBWA, would the Morgan Center still use a ranking service in which UCLA was ranked lower? But I digress . . .
The Trogans have a very strong pitching staff, especially their weekend starters, who have had comparable seasons when compared to UCLA's weekend starters. See the comparison of the expected weekend starters below in "THE DETAILS" section of this article. Southern Cal's team ERA is 2.70, which is excellent. Their closer seems to now be Marc Huberman, with 3 saves and a 1.05 ERA, although Kyle Davis has more saves (5), with a 3.05 ERA. It appears that Coach Hubbs has been turning to Huberman more in recent, late-inning situations in close games. Huberman got the win against Arizona last Sunday. On offense, Southern Cal is led by lead-off hitter, Bobby Stahel, a junior who is hitting .438 with 32 runs scored and 21 RBI. The Trogans have four other starters hitting in excess of .300. As a team, they are hitting .305, and are dangerous throughout their lineup.
As good as Southern Cal's pitching staff is, UCLA's staff has been a bit better. UCLA's team ERA is an astounding 2.25, good enough for first in the PAC 12 and fifth in the nation. The Bruins' ace, James Kaprielian, and their closer, Dave Berg, have been put on the Golden Spikes Award watch list (as have UCLA's Kevin Kramer and Southern Cal's aforementioned Stahel and catcher Garrett Stubbs). If UCLA's starters can get the Bruins the lead through six innings, the Bruins' opponent can pretty much kiss the game goodbye, as the trio of Tucker Forbes, Grant Dyer, and Dave Berg have been dominant in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings, respectively. Offensively, UCLA is led by lead-off hitter Kevin Kramer (.387/4/18), Ty Moore (.378/2/28), and Chris Keck (.318/6/29).
If you can make it out to Dedeaux Field to support our Bruins, please do so. If you cannot make it in person, the entire series will be televised on the PAC 12 Network. You can follow James Ramey and Tim Wilhelm via online audio stream here. The following are the dates, times, and expected starters for the series:
Friday, April 10, 3:00 p.m. PT
U$C*- Junior RHP Brent Wheatley (2-1, 2.18 ERA)
UCLA-Junior RHP, James Kaprielian (6-2; 2.09 ERA)
Saturday, April 11, 7:30 p.m. PT
U$C*- Junior LHP Kyle Twomey (5-1, 2.05 ERA)
UCLA-Senior LHP, Grant Watson (5-2; 1.53 ERA)
Sunday, April 12, 2:00 p.m. PT
U$C*-Freshman, RHP Mitch Hart, RHP (5-0, 2.93 ERA
UCLA-Freshman RHP, Griffin Canning (5-1; 2.84 ERA)
Two junior righties battle on Friday, two lefties showdown on Saturday, and two freshman righties square off on Sunday. Very interesting pitching match ups.
UCLA vs. U$C*. Nothing more needs to be said. Add in a fight for first place in the PAC 12 at the halfway point of the PAC 12 season, and you have an intense and emotional series. This shapes up to be a good one. It all begins this afternoon at 3 p.m. PT when UCLA’s ace, James Kaprielian, takes the mound for the Bruins.
This is your UCLA vs. Southern Cal Game One open thread.
Fire away with your comments and Gooooo Bruins!!!!!!!!!