The UCLA Bruin baseball team (19-21) will face the Long Beach State Dirtbags (26-16) tonight at Blair Field in Long Beach. On paper, The Beach appears to be the better team, but the Bruins have much more at stake in this midweek contest. At this point, every game counts as UCLA will try to make a push for the postseason. Can UCLA find the motivation (and the pitching) to prevail and even their record at .500 coming into a weekend series against UC Irvine?
It will be a tall task for this UCLA team. Tonight will be the second meeting between the two squads; the first was UCLA’s fourth game of the season, on February 23rd, in which the Dirtbags kicked sand in the faces of the Bruins, 10-1, at Jackie Robinson Stadium. It began a series of five midweek losses (four of which were blowouts) and a carousel of midweek starting pitchers for UCLA. The Bruins have since gone 2-1 in midweek games, for a midweek record of 2-6 on the season.
The midweek pitching carousel, however, is still spinning. Even in the two midweek wins, neither of UCLA’s starting pitchers, Jake Bird against Loyola Marymount nor Jon Olsen at Pepperdine, earned the win for the Bruins.
Tonight, UCLA Head Coach John Savage will again start the aforementioned Jon Olsen against the Dirtbags. This will be freshman right-hander's third straight midweek start, and the numbers are not stellar in his first two: one less, one no-decision, four and 2/3 innings, seven runs (six earned), on eleven hits. Coach Savage will likely take a committee approach tonight, which has not been effective for much of the season, but Coach Savage has little options as no legitimate fourth starter has emerged for UCLA.
Long Beach State comes into this game hot. Winners of five straight, the Dirtbags are 18-8 in the friendly confines of historic Blair Field, and sit comfortably in third place in the competitive Big West Conference, behind Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara. Barring a late season collapse, the Dirtbags will likely be going to the postseason.
The Beach will send Jacob Hughey to the hill. The freshman left-hander (0-1, 3.45 ERA) has started two games for the Dirtbags. in his most recent start in Log Beach State's last midwek game, Hughey went three innings against San Diego State, allowing no runs and only one hit. As is the case with UCLA, Long Beach State Head Coach, Troy Buckley, typically uses a committee approach to midweek games.
The Bruins will need to score considerably more than the breadstick (i.e. single run) they scored in their last game against The Dirtbags. Hopefully Pac 12 Player of the Week, Kort Peterson, will continue to swing a big bat. Peterson went 6-17 in four games last week, driving in eleven runs, with two triples and a double. Unfortunately, UCLA only prevailed in one of those games, Sunday's 10-3 win over Utah, but that win was largely because of Peterson. Kort was spectacular, driving in five of UCLA’s ten runs on Sunday to help the Bruins avoid the sweep against the Utes.
First pitch tonight is at 6 p.m. PT. The game is not televised and there is no video stream. You can follow the action with UCLA’s John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm via UCLA live streaming audio, or check live stats at Gametracker.
If you are in the area and have a free night, go down to the field, check out the game, and root on the Bruins! Blair Field is cool. Although renovated in the 90s, that diamond has been around since the 1920s.
This is your UCLA Bruins vs. Long Beach State Dirtbags open thread.