The UCLA Baseball team (25-28, 12-15 PAC 12) will close out the 2016 season with a three-game series in Corvallis this weekend against the Oregon State Beavers (32-19, 13-14 PAC 12). While the Bruins are getting ready to break out the golf clubs and fishing poles, Oregon State is fighting for an NCAA tournament berth. UCLA couldn’t play spoiler against Arizona State at home last weekend, losing the series, two games to one. Can the Bruins spoil the Beavers’ tournament hopes with a series win this weekend?
UCLA comes into the final series of the season on a definite down note. The Bruins are coming off a nine-game home stand that could have put them into post-season consideration. Instead, UCLA struggled at home down the stretch, going 3-6, losing both midweek games and losing series to Southern Cal and Arizona State. That performance closed the book on UCLA’s hopes to make the field of 64.
Several players will be playing their last games in a UCLA uniform this weekend. Aside from seniors, Eric Filia, Trent Chatterton, Brett Urabe, and Christoph Bono, it has been reported that red-shirt juniors Darrell Miller, Jr., Hunter Virant, and Tucker Forbes will not be returning to UCLA for their senior seasons. I had hoped that Miller, Jr. would petition for an extra year of eligibility due to his injury this season, but by the looks of this tweet, he is moving on with his baseball career:
“I’d like to thank UCLA for all of the opportunities it has prepared me for."— UCLA Baseball (@UCLABaseball) May 22, 2016
- DMJ pic.twitter.com/Dbj6wCXYGq
Best of luck in the future to Darrell and the other six players who will play their last games in a UCLA uniform this weekend!
The Beavers are on the NCAA post-season bubble right now. Many projections, including Baseball America’s, have OSU as one of the “first four out” and project that only four PAC 12 teams will qualify. The Beavers are currently 6th in the Pac 12, but would likely qualify with a sweep of UCLA, maybe even with a series win, depending on what else happens in the PAC 12 this weekend. Personally, I think it would be tough for the NCAA to exclude a 34-20 OSU team from the post-season (which would be OSU's record if it took two of three from UCLA, even if they were only 15-15 in the PAC 12.
Oregon State, who came into the season as the favorites to win the PAC 12, has been hit hard by the injury bug, but still managed to be relevant coming into the final weekend of the regular season. The Beavers will be highly motivated at home and the crowd will be hostile for the Bruins, who really do not have anything to play for, other than for themselves and to act as spoiler.
The Beavers have a solid team ERA of 3.74 and are batting a more-than-respectable .282 on the season. Catcher, Logan Ice (.327), second baseman Nick Madrigal (.333), and left-fielder Christian Donahue (.346) all hit well for average, with Ice also hitting many extra base hits, with 13 doubles, five triples, and seven home runs. Ice is slugging .599, with 39 RBI, and gets on base over 45% of the time. Those are outstanding numbers.
Ice, however, might not be the biggest power hitter on the Beavers. That distinction may go to first baseman, KJ Harrison, with 14 doubles, 4 triples, and ten home runs, to go with a team leading 47 RBI. Donahue, Harrison, and Ice typically hit in the two through clean up slots, so UCLA's pitchers had better be wary of the top of the Beaver lineup.
As you can see below, all of the Beavers’ pitchers for this series are TBA. If recent history is any indication, Travis Eckert (6-4, 3.53 ERA) should get the start tonight. Eckert has started 13 games this season and has struck out 61 batters. Luke Heimlich (6-4, 3.94 ERA) is the typical Saturday starter, but he was roughed up against Southern Cal last weekend, giving up seven earned runs on just 2 and 1/3 innings. So it remains to be seen if he will get the call tomorrow night. Bryce Fehmel got the Sunday start for the Beavers last week, but only has five starts on the season. Whether starting or relieving, Fehmel (9-1, 2.55 ERA) leads the team in wins, ERA, and appearances (25). UCLA should expect to see a lot of Fehmel no matter what this weekend.
The following are the dates, times, and anticipated starting pitchers for the series:
Friday, May 27, 4:00 p.m.
UCLA--Griffin Canning, RHP, So. (5-7, 3.91 ERA)
Saturday, May 28, 4:00 p.m.
UCLA--Grant Dyer, RHP, Jr. (4-3, 4.58 ERA)
Sunday, May 29, 11:00 a.m.
All three games of the series will both be shown on the PAC 12 Networks. You can follow the action in all three games via UCLA’s online streaming audio, with John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm calling the games. You can also follow the games via live statistics, courtesy of Oregon State.
Oregon State has something to play for. UCLA does not. I think the Beavers win the series, but UCLA squeaks out one victory. I hope the Bruins prove me wrong. A UCLA sweep would even UCLA’s overall record at 28-28, 15-15 in the PAC 12. Anything less than a UCLA sweep would mean a losing record for UCLA, which would be the fourth losing record for Head Coach John Savage in his twelve seasons at the helm of the UCLA Bruin baseball team.
This is your UCLA vs. Oregon State Game One open thread. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. Oh, I personally extend a special invitation to our good OSU buddy, Scotty, to join in the fun over the weekend!