The UCLA Bruin baseball team (12-11, 4-3 PAC 12) is in a free fall right now, having lost four of their last five games, the last two games by margins of seven and eight runs, respectively. Last night in Berkeley, the Golden Bears (16-6, 5-2 PAC 12) pounded Griffin Canning for nine runs (seven earned) on 13 hits, in 6 and 1/3 innings. UCLA fell, 9-1.
UCLA was never really in the game, as Berkeley scored one run in the 1st inning, one run in the 2nd inning, and three runs in the fourth inning, to take a 5-0 lead through four innings. The Bruins managed a run in the top of the 6th inning on a Brett Urabe bunt single, a Luke Persico single, and an RBI ground out by Sean Bouchard, but 5-1 was as close as UCLA would get this game.
The Golden Bears chased Canning in the bottom of the 7th, scoring four more runs on four hits and an error. Neither team scored after that.
Persico was one of two bright spots for UCLA, going 3 for 4 with a double. The other was Hunter Virant. Virant was pounded in his two starts earlier this season, losing his midweek starter spot. Last night, he pitched 1 and 1/3 innings of hitless and scoreless relief, facing four batters and striking out two. Hopefully this will give Hunter a jolt of confidence going forward.
UCLA had some other threats, but the Golden Bears made a number of stellar defensive plays to keep the Bruins at bay. Conversely, UCLA's two errors contributed to two unearned runs, including the sole run in the 3rd and one of the runs in the 7th.
Berkeley's expected Friday starter, top MLB prospect Daulton Jeffries, who is 6-0 in six starts on the season, was a late scratch last night and is not expected to pitch this series. Berkeley's Saturday starter, Ryan Mason, stepping into the Friday role seemlessly, going seven innings and surrendering only six hits, one run, and striking out seven Bruins. Mason improved his record to 4-1 on the year.
The potential silver lining is that Jeffries' absence means that Berkeley's starter for today and tomorrow is unknown. Whomever it is, it will not be Jeffries or Mason, clearly the Golden Bears' top two starters.
Perhaps UCLA can take advantage of the uncertainty in the Berkeley starting pitching situation. I expect to see left hander Matt Ladrech (2-1, 4.15 ERA) tonight for the Golden Bears. Another possibility is righty, Jeff Bain (2-1, 3.50).
UCLA will send Grant Dyer (1-1, 4.43 ERA) to the hill. UCLA's last win came with Dyer on the mound, last Friday in Tucson. Dyer went the distance in that one and he'll need to have similar success against the Golden Bears tonight for UCLA to have a chance.
UCLA needs to get off the schneid in the worst way tonight. But the Bruins will need a better performance in all aspects of the game: pitching, hitting, and defense.
The is your UCLA v. UC Berkeley Game Two open thread. Go Bruins!