The UCLA Bruin Baseball team (6-5) travels over the hill today, to take on the Cal State Northridge Matadors (9-3) in a Tuesday afternoon game, starting at 2:00 p.m. PT. Read on for Bruins Nation’s preview of the contest between the Bruins and the Matadors.
The Bruins, now ranked #19 in the nation, are coming off a perfect weekend, with wins against #20 Mississippi State, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal. UCLA has faced stiff competition this season, with two losses against North Carolina (9-1), and one loss each to Cal Poly (10-2), Long Beach State (7-4), and UCSB (9-3). The Bruins handed North Carolina and Cal Poly their only losses of the season. This is a young Bruin team, especially the pitching staff, which should improve at the season progresses.
Cal State Northridge is also coming off a perfect weekend in the Washington, D.C. area, where the Matadors took two from George Washington and one from George Mason. CSUN has won six of their last seven and is undefeated on the road. They are only 3-3 at Matador Field, however, where they will face UCLA today.
UCLA hitting is not where is should be. The Bruins are hitting .232 as a team. Eric Filia (.395, 1 HR, 10 RBI) and Kort Peterson (.359, 0 HR, 5 RBI) continue to lead the team in batting average. Brett Urabe and Scott Jarvis are hitting in the .280 range. Brett Stephens got on track against Southern Cal after a tough start to the season, raising his average to .159 out of the leadoff spot. To his credit, Stephens has drawn nine walks, so his on base percentage is .302. UCLA’s catching platoon needs to step it up at the plate, as Jake Hirabayashi is hitting .125 and Daniel Rosica is hitting .158. Although the Bruins have only hit two home runs, they have seven triples.
After starting Justin Hooper in the mid-week game against UCSB last week, UCLA Head Coach John Savage will go back to junior left hander, Hunter Virant, against the Matadors. Virant (0-1, 15.43 ERA) started the first midweek game against Long Beach State two weeks ago, with poor results—the ERA listed above is not a typo. Hooper fared even worse last week. Hopefully Virant will rebound with a better showing today to even his record. If not, Coach Savage will have plenty of options with his bullpen, which has done a much better job in past few games.
The Matadors are hitting .266 as a team, and are led by shortstop Yusuke Akitoshi (.366, 1 HR, 6 RBI), second baseman Fred Smith (.364, 0 HR, 5 RBI), and first baseman Branden Berry (.343, 3 HR, 9 RBI), who are typically the one through three hitters in CSUN’s lineup. CSUN has a lot of power, with eight home runs through their first twelve games.
Cal State Northridge will start sophomore right hander, Andrew Weston (2-1, 3.38 ERA). Weston has started two games this season, getting the win against Pepperdine on February 23 in a midweek contest, and the loss against Northern Colorado in a start the following Sunday. Weston has also made two appearances out of the bullpen this season, including 3 and 2/3 innings of scoreless relief last Saturday against George Washington, getting the win. Samuel Myers (6.1 IP, 1.42 ERA) and Joey Deceglie (4.1 IP, 0.00 ERA) have pitched well for CSUN out of the bullpen, in the event Weston gets into trouble. If Northridge gets into a save situation, expect to see Conner O’Neill (12.1 IP, 2.92 ERA, 3 saves).
CSUN—Andrew Weston, So, RHP (2-1, 3.38 ERA)
UCLA –Hunter Virant, Jr. LHP (0-1, 15.43 ERA)
Hopefully, the Bruins can continue their winning ways from last weekend. They are 0-2 in midweek games, however, and that will need to change. Virant needs to start the game well, as he didn’t get through the second inning in his prior start against Long Beach State. If Virant can give UCLA five solid innings, I think UCLA will prevail this afternoon going into its weekend showdown against the University of Texas.
The first pitch is at 2 p.m. PT. Most of you will be at your places of employment, but you can still listen to John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm call the game while working diligently. Or, if your boss is lurking nearby, take a look at the live stats every now and again to follow along with the game. You can even watch a live stream of the game, courtesy of the Big West Conference.
This is your UCLA vs. CSUN baseball mid-afternoon open thread.