The UCLA Bruin baseball team (21-21) heads into the final fourteen games of the season, starting with a home and home series against the UC Irvine Anteaters (25-17). Of those fourteen games, UCLA will play a total of ten of them at home. Ten wins should get the Bruins into the postseason. A series win against UCI would help. Can Head Coach John Savage manage the Bruins to a series win against the team with whom he cut his teeth, UC Irvine? Two of the three games are at JRS. Saturday's game is in Irvine. It should be very, very interesting.
UCLA has won two straight, getting a much needed win on Sunday against Utah to avoid a sweep in Salt Lake City, and barely hanging on in Long Beach on Tuesday, almost blowing leads of 8-0 and 11-2, surviving the Dirtbags, 11-10. UCLA (10-11 PAC 12) is 9th in the PAC 12 right now and has a conference series in hand over about half of the league, including the three teams sitting immediately above them in the standings at 9-9. UCLA sits one game behind 4th place Arizona right now. As such, certain results in certain match ups could elevate UCLA into top half of the PAC 12 standings without even playing a league game this weekend.
To start the series off right, Griffin Canning needs to bounce back from a subpar outing in Salt Lake City last week. I have confidence in Canning to deliver, as he has been excellent in his last two starts at JRS.
Further, UCLA has been hitting better of late, raising the team batting avergage to .253. Luke Persico has been on fire, leads the team in hits, and has raised his average to .325. Brett Stephens is over .210 and has been hitting at a much higher clip of late. Daniel Roscia has brought stability to the catching position, and is hitting .250, a vast improvement from earlier this season.
UCI has lost three straight, two at home to Cal State Fullerton and a midweek game at UNLV. They sit 6th in the Big West and, like UCLA, are on the fence with respect to a post-season berth. Although not in conference, this series is as important to UCI as it is to UCLA. The Anteaters will be motivated.
UCI, which is hitting an excellent .283 as a team, is led by Keston Hiura, who typically hits DH out of the three hole. Hiura's numbers are special: .383, 7 HR, 35 RBI. His slugging percentage is .611and he gets on base at a .461 clip. UCLA will need to watch out for him. Five other Anteaters are hitting over .300, which could play havoc with UCLA's bullpen, if the Bruin starters do not do the job.
From the pitching rubber, UCI has a 4.05 ERA. Their closer, Calvin Faucher (1-0), has seven saves and a 0.92 ERA. As you can see from the pitching match ups below, the Anteaters' starters match up pretty well with UCLA's staff. Tonight's starters, Griffin Canning and Elliott Surrey, have similar numbers. UCI's Saturday starter has better numbers than his counterpart, and UCLA's Sunday starter has better numbers than his counterpart.
The Match Up
The following are the game days, times, and projected starters for this weekend's series:
Friday, May 6th @ 6:00 p.m.
UCI – Elliott Surrey, LHP, Sr. (3-4, 3.43 ERA)
UCLA – Griffin Canning, RHP, So. (5-5, 3.33 ERA)
Saturday, May 7th @ 2:00 p.m.
UCLA – Grant Dyer, RHP, Jr. (2-3, 5.89 ERA)
UCI – Cameron Bishop, LHP, So. (5-3, 4.71 ERA)
Sunday, May 8th @ 1:00 p.m.
UCI – Alonzo Garcia, RHP, So. (4-3, 4.50 ERA)
UCLA – Kyle Molnar, RHP, Fr. (4-4, 3.36 ERA)
None of the games will be televised this weekend. All three games, including tonight's game, will be available via UCLA's online audio stream, featuring John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm. All three games will also have live statistics online, with UCLA supplying stats for tonight's game.
Although this is not a PAC 12 series, it is an important one for the Bruins, who need to make their post-season push by winning their four remaining series. It starts tonight with Griffin Canning. I predict a UCLA series win, with the Bruins taking the two games at JRS, and Irvine taking the game in the O.C.
This is your UCLA v. UC Irvine baseball Game One open thread. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.