The UCLA Bruins baseball team will travel a few miles south down the 405 this evening to square off against the Long Beach State Dirtbags, in a midweek, nonconference game. The Bruins (31-9; 16-5 PAC 12) are coming off a series win against Stanford in Palo Alto, their first series win against the Cardinal since 2007. They are in sole possession of first place in the PAC 12 Conference, and are ranked #2 in the nation (behind LSU) by all of the college baseball ranking services. The Dirtbags (22-17; 8-7 Big West) are coming off a series loss against Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. CSULB is fifth in the big West conference.
This will be the second meeting between the two squads, the first of which was a 1-0 UCLA victory on February 24, 2015, at Jackie Robinson Stadium. In that game, the Bruins only mustered two hits, one of which was a solo home run by Kevin Kramer. The Dirtbags only had four hits, three of which were off of starter, Griffin Canning, who recorded his first collegiate win. Dave Berg also recorded his first save of the season in that game. UCLA’s performance in the previous Tuesday contest between UCLA and Long Beach State was no doubt influenced by the fact that the road weary Bruins had just returned from Orlando, Florida, two days prior to the game, after the Bruins' series win against the University of North Carolina. They had to have been tired with only one day of “rest” (actually two days of classes) before the Long Beach State game.
UCLA is starting to get consistent production from their entire lineup, as Kort Peterson, Darrell Miller, Jr., Trent Chatterton, and Christoph Bono have significantly raised their batting averages in the last few weeks. Miller, Jr. was also named the PAC 12 Player of the Week. UCLA Head Coach, John Savage, knew that Miller, Jr. had a hot bat, inserting him in the cleanup spot of the lineup for Sunday’s rubber match against Stanford, instead of in Miller, Jr.'s usual seven hole. Miller, Jr. responded with a three for four performance and three RBI. In the Stanford series, Miller, Jr. went six for 12, with six RBI, and was a rock on defense, significantly contributing to the Bruins’ two victories and earning his well-deserved PAC 12 POTW honors.
The Dirtbags are hitting .245 as a team, and have gotten their best production from freshman DH/first baseman/outfielder, Luke Rasmussen (.407, 2 HR, 10 RBI)(in only 54 At-bats); sophomore shortstop and leadoff hitter, Garrett Hampson (.301, 0 HR, 13 RBI, with 29 runs scored); and junior right-fielder and three hole hitter, Zack Rivera (.267, 3 HR, 24 RBI). Long Beach State has a very respectable 2.85 team ERA, but much of this is attributable to their three weekend starters.
Both junior right-hander, Ryan Cruz (1-2, 4.72 ERA), and freshman right-hander, Darren McCaughan (1-2, 2.17 ERA), have started midweek games for the Dirtbags, although McCaughan has gotten the last three midweek starts. Cruz was the hard luck loser against the Bruins back in February, taking a no-hitter through five innings until Kramer's solo shot. As of this writing, CSULB’s Head Coach, Troy Buckley, has not announced tonight’s starter for the Dirtbags, although it is reasonable to conclude that it will either be Cruz or McCaughan. Expect Cody Poteet (3-1, 2.86) to take the hill for the Bruins. Poteet got roughed up in his last start one week ago against UC Irvine, so let’s hope he bounces back with a better outing tonight.
First pitch is at 6:00 p.m. PT. For the first time in 14 games, UCLA baseball will NOT be televised. You can listen to the game via online streaming audio, or you can follow along using Long Beach State’s Gametracker here. For any of you Bruins in Long Beach, west Orange County, or the surrounding area, this is a great opportunity to see the #2 team in the country up close and personal. Come out and support the Bruins if you can!
This is your UCLA v. Long Beach State Game Thread. Go Bruins!