The UCLA Bruin baseball team (23-22) squares off against the Pepperdine Waves tonight at Jackie Robinson Stadium. First pitch is at 6 p.m. PT. UCLA is coming off a series win over UC Irvine this past weekend, on the strength of very solid pitching performances by starters, Grant Dyer and Kyle Molnar. Pepperdine (22-20) is coming off a series win at home over BYU.
The Bruins have eleven games left in the season to make their post-season push. The next eight games (including tonight's game) are all at Jackie Robinson Stadium. It is critical that the Bruins take care of business at home. Present projections of the field of 64 have five PAC 12 teams making the field. UCLA is not presently one of those five. The NCAA likes to select teams that are hot down the stretch, so UCLA has a shot to make the post-season if it can continue playing like it did last week, in which it went 3-1.
For the fourth straight week, Head Coach John Savage will send Jon Olsen (0-0, 9.00 ERA) to the mound.
Olsen has not made it past the third inning in any of his prior three starts, but the Bruins have at least gone 2-1 in those three starts, a vast improvement over UCLA's midweek record before Olsen became the starter, which was 1-5.
Olsen's first start was against The Waves, when he lasted 2 and 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned). Coach Savage used eight different pitchers in that game. Barring a much improved effort by Olsen, expect UCLA to continue to use the committee approach tonight, as it has in past midweek games.
Like UCLA, Pepperdine will start the same pitcher who started the game against the Bruins three weeks ago. Easton Lucas (2-4, 5.62 ERA), a freshman right hander, will take the hill tonight for the Waves. Lucas pitched well against the Bruins in the prior match up, throwing three scoreless innings and scattering three hits. The Bruins overcame the Waves in their last meeting by scoring runs against Pepperdine's bullpen in the middle innings (especially the 6th, in which UCLA scored seven runs), well after Lucas had been lifted.
In the last game, Matt Gelalich, brother of former UCLA outfielder, Jeff Gelalich, punished UCLA pitching, going 4 for 5, with two RBI and three runs scored. UCLA will try to contain Gelalich at the plate tonight. Left fielder Matthew Kafner and shortstop Manny Jefferson, both of whom are hitting over .300, are also threats with the bat. Overall, Pepperdine is not a great hitting team, with a team batting average of .257 (UCLA is hitting .252 as a team).
Tonight is a big opportunity for the Bruins to continue their momentum going into the critical rivalry series against Southern Cal this weekend, which could be a series that results in the elimination of the loser from post-season contention.
This evening's game will not be televised, but you can listen to John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm call the game via online streaming audio. You can also follow along with live statistics. Better yet, come out to the ballpark to cheer on your UCLA Bruins!
This is your UCLA v. Pepperdine baseball open thread.