Fresh off their series win over cross-town rivals, Southern Cal, the UCLA Bruins baseball team (25-7; 12-3 PAC 12) takes on Cal State Fullerton tonight in a mid-week game at Jackie Robinson Stadium. UCLA is now ranked #3 in the nation by 4 of the 5 college baseball ranking services and ranked #2 in the other. The Bruins have a one game lead in the PAC 12 Conference over Arizona State. This is the first of five games that UCLA will play at home, with a three game series against Cal this weekend, and a mid-week game against UC Irvine next week.
CSUF (19-15; 6-3 Big West) although unranked nationally, is coming off of a series win at UC Davis. In fact, CSUF has won its last 3 series, at Northridge, at home against Cal Poly, and at the aforementioned UC Davis. While the Titans’ record is not reflective of their rich history (23 straight NCAA postseason appearances; 4 National Championships), they are playing better ball of late and are sitting in second place in the Big West behind UC Irvine. The Bruins cannot take CSUF lightly, as the Titans have beaten Louisville (ranked in the top 5 in all services) at a neutral site and split a two game series at Nebraska (also nationally ranked).
Although at the time this was written, neither team had announced their starters, it is likely that UCLA will go with Cody Poteet (2-1, 2.57 ERA), who has one mid-week start since Griffin Canning took over as the Sunday starter. The Bruins have not played a mid-week game since March 24th, Poteet’s only other mid-week start. Although Poteet pitched in relief on Saturday, he only threw 18 pitches, so he should be good to go tonight.
The Titans’ mid-week starter has been freshman right-hander, Conner Seabold (2-2, 3.56 ERA), who figures to get the start tonight. Seabold has been roughed up in his last two starts. He went 1 and 1/3 innings against the University of San Diego last week, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, but escaped with a no decision. He went 5 and 1/3 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits against Nebraska in late March, and took the loss in Lincoln.
UCLA wants to score early and often, taking the lead into the late innings to allow its excellent bullpen to close the door. The Bruins do not want to get into a situation where they need to score late, as CSUF’s closer, senior Tyler Peitzmeier, has been lights out this season. The left-hander has 12 saves, 7 of which were multi-inning saves. Of course, the same can be said of Dave Berg, whose ERA has dropped to 1.10, with a 3-0 record and 8 saves.
The Titans’ team batting average is a bit pedestrian at .263, although Josh Vargas (.342 batting average), Davi Olmedo-Barrera (.311; 4 HR; 27 RBI), and Josh Estill (.282; 5 HR; 25 RBI) have put up nice numbers. Vargas has been particularly hot, hitting .469 over his last 10 games.
UCLA got good production from the bottom 4 of their order (Kort Peterson, Daryl Miller, Jr., Christoph Bono, and Trent Chatterton) in the series against Southern Cal, with those players hitting .333 (14 for 42) over the series, with 7 runs scored, 5 RBI, and 1 home run. If UCLA can get that type of production from those guys, and the top 5 guys keep doing what they are doing, the Bruins will be in very good shape going forward.
First pitch is at 6:00 p.m. PT. Come on out and support the Bruins if you have the chance to do so. The game is also televised on the PAC 12 Network. Listen to the call via internet streaming audio or follow along with live stats.
This is your UCLA v. Cal State Fullerton game thread. Go Bruins!