The UCLA Bruins Baseball team opens its second weekend series of the 2017 season by hosting the Gonzaga Bulldogs, after the Bruins went 2-0 against San Jose State in their rain-shorted opening series last weekend. First pitch is at 6 p.m. PT at Jackie Robinson Stadium. UCLA thanks the military this weekend, as each veteran and current member of the Armed Forces gets multiple free tickets.
The Bruins lost a killer to UC Riverside on Tuesday, and come into this weekend’s series 2-1. Aside from one big seven run inning last Saturday, which iced the Spartans, UCLA has not posted another crooked number on the scoreboard. The Zags are 2-2, having played in the Sanderson Ford Baseball Classic in Surprise, Arizona last weekend. Playing each school on Saturday and Sunday, Gonzaga beat Duke twice and lost to Indiana twice. The Zags appear to have played tougher competition than the Bruins so far this season.
Unlike UCLA, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were invited to the NCAA Tournament last season, the Zags’ first such invitation. And THAT was after only playing ten of their 57 games at home. That’s right, due to weather in Spokane, WA, it is tough to get 25-30 home games when the season starts in mid-February.
Gonzaga didn’t make it out of its regional in 2016, but making the postseason fueled expectations for this year. To be successful, however, the Zags will have to fill three key positions in the infield. Gonzaga will start a new shortstop, catcher, and first baseman this season.
In their games against Duke and Indiana, the Zags only averaged 3.5 runs a game. For them to make another tournament run this season, this will need to improve. But against the (so far) light hitting Bruins, it might be enough.
The Bulldogs’ starter tonight, Eli Morgan pitched well in the West Coast Conference last season, going 8-0 with a 1.14 ERA in conference. Morgan, however, got shelled by the Duke Blue Devils last weekend. The Zags are also high on freshman righty, Casey Legumina, who will start Sunday.
At the plate, Gonzaga is led by their leadoff and number two hitters, senior left fielder, Sam Brown, and third baseman, Jeff Bohling. Both Brown and Bohling have 7 hits in 17 at bats, a .412 clip. As a team, Gonzaga does not have a home run on the season.
The UCLA loss to Riverside was indeed a killer. The Bruins couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead, surrendering three runs in the 8th.
Poor Justin Hooper! Hooper threw 4.1 innings of hitless relief. He struck out 10. But he allowed two walks and a wild pitch before being lifted in the 8th with one out and runners on second and third.
Brian Gadsby came on and induced a ground ball that scored a run. Then Gadsby gave up a home run on a two out, full count pitch. That made it 3-2, UCR, and the Bruins went down in order in both the 8th and 9th innings. On the game, UCLA only had five hits and UCR only had 2 hits!
Tonight, Griffin Canning takes the hill for the Bruins. He threw six innings of two hit ball against SJSU last weekend, striking out eight. UCLA had some difficulties last weekend after SJSU got past the Bruin starters. The UCLA bullpen has to do a better job. Period.
At the plate, leadoff hitter Daniel Amaral is hitting .417, and is getting on base half the time. Awesome. Amaral also has UCLA’s only home run. Freshman Ryan Kreidler is hitting a healthy .375, with 4 RBI. One of the more seasoned Bruins, Sean Bouchard is stepping up like a leader on this team should, hitting .333.
The following are the date, times, and anticipated starting pitchers for the series:
Friday, February 24, 6:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Griffin Canning, RHP, Jr. (0-0; 0.00 ERA)
Gonzaga – Eli Morgan, RHP, Jr. (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
Saturday, February 25, 2:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Jake Bird, RHP, Jr. (1-0; 1.29 ERA)
Gonzaga – Justin Vernia, RHP, Sr. (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sunday, February 26, 1:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Jon Olson, RHP, So. (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Gonzaga – Casey Legumina RHP, Fr. (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
There is a very, very slight chance of rain in Los Angeles on Sunday, so it looks like UCLA will be able to get in a full series this weekend.
There is no TV for any of the games in the series. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call for all three games, including tonight’s 6:00 p.m. PT game via streaming online audio.
You can also follow along via live statistics.
If you are in L.A., come out to beautiful Jackie Robinson Stadium!
I predict that UCLA will win the series, 2-1. UCLA will not sweep the Zags.
Tonight is going to be a dogfight between two excellent pitchers who will be pitching in Major League systems in 2018. UCLA will play small ball and win a low scoring affair. The rest of the series is a toss-up, but I give UCLA the home field advantage and think that that will be the difference between a series win and a series loss.
This is your UCLA Bruins Baseball vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs, Game One open thread. Fire away with your thoughts and comments on this glorious Friday night!