The UCLA Bruin Baseball team (6-5) makes its first weekend road trip of the season as the Bruins travel for a three game series to the traditional baseball powerhouse in Austin, Texas, the University of Texas Longhorns (9-6). UCLA, after having a less-than-impressive showing in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic last weekend, blowing leads in two extra inning losses to USD and Southern Cal, had a nice offensive showing against CSUN on Tuesday. The Bruins banged out 13 hits in a 7-2 win, and avenged last week’s midweek loss, 6-5, at Northridge.
The ‘Horns are part of college baseball’s blueblood club.
They have won six national Championships in baseball, including two in this millennium, and have been runners-up an additional six times, including two in this millennium. They also won championships in ’49, ’50, ’79, and ’83. The school has produced over 100 players who have made it to "The Show," including the legend, Roger Clemens.
The Longhorns, however, have had a difficult half decade by Texas’ standards. Completely missing the postseason in 2012 and 2013, the Longhorns rebounded in 2014, going 46-21 and making a deep run in Omaha in the College World Series.
In 2015, Texas went 26-25 (with a sub-.500 record in the Big 12) and were projected to be out of the Final 64, but managed to win the Big 12 Tournament, gaining an automatic bid to the postseason. There, the ‘Horns were quickly ousted in the regional, losing to Oregon State and Dallas Baptist in succession.
Last year, Texas backslid further, finishing 30-27 and completely missing the postseason.
This season, Texas is looking to get back into the postseason and make some noise. And they will do so with a new manager. The Texas legend, Augie Garrido, who helmed the Longhorns for the last 20 years, stepped down after last season. The ‘Horns are now managed by former Tulane skipper, David Pierce, who has been to the postseason the last five years, two with Tulane and three with San Houston State.
THE ‘HORNS IN 2017
Texas is currently 9-6, losing two games to Rice in a series loss, one game to UConn in a series win, and three out of four last weekend at Stanford. All of Texas’ games, with the exception of the four-game Stanford series, have been in Texas.
Texas’ strengths and weaknesses are similar to UCLA’s: the ‘Horns have great starting pitching, and are hitting poorly.
Big junior righty, Morgan Cooper is Texas’ usual Friday starter and will likely duel against UCLA’s Griffin Canning tonight. Cooper is 1-2 and has been a tough luck loser, despite a 1.89 ERA. Same with Kyle Johnston, the team’s typical Saturday starter, who is also 1-2 and has a 2.08 ERA. The team usually scores more runs for its Sunday starter, Conner Mayes, who is 2-1 despite a 3.95 ERA. Although each of these guys has started on each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively, Texas has officially listed all of its starting pitchers this weekend as "TBA." Keep Austin Wierd, I guess . . .
From the plate, Texas has two hitters above .400 (with limited at bats), two starting hitters above, .300, and everybody else on the team is hitting .224 or below. As a team, the ‘Horns are hitting .232.
Fun fact: The 2017 UCLA team has led in every one of its games. Yet, they are 6-5, which says a lot. Unfortunately, so far this season for the UCLA Bruins has been about its inability to hold a lead. Most of the time, it is has been the bullpen that has been the culprit of UCLA’s lead-losing ways.
UCLA’s starting pitching has been so good that the team’s ERA is a scintillating 2.02, cancelling out the bullpen’s woes statistically, but not in the win/loss column. 21 scoreless innings out of Canning (who is 0-0, by the way) certainly helps that ERA. Jake Bird was a late scratch last Saturday, leaving the Bruins in "TBA" mode for this weekend’s second game. Jon Olson, who pitched pretty well through five innings against Southern Cal (it was the sixth that sunk UCLA), will take the hill on Sunday.
The Bruins are hitting .007 as a team below Texas, coming in at .225. Sean Bouchard is providing the leadership by example, hitting .350 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI. Freshman, Ryan Kreidler has started the season hot, batting .306 with 8 RBI. Much like last year, senior Brett Stephens is hitting .143. Daniel Amaral and Nick Valaika are also having tough seasons so far at the pate, both hitting .205.
The following are the date, times, and anticipated starting pitchers for the series (note: I am speculating on Texas’ pitchers based on past dates pitched this season; officially, each pitching slot for the Longhorns is "TBA"):
Friday, March 10th at 4:30 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Griffin Canning, RHP, Jr. (0-0; 0.00 ERA)
Texas–Morgan Cooper, RHP, Jr. (1-2, 1.89 ERA)
Saturday, March 11th at 2:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA - TBA
Texas –Kyle Johnston, RHP, Jr. (1-2, 2.08 ERA)
Sunday, March 12th at 11 a.m. PT (an early game and we "spring forward" Sunday night; don’t forget to set your clocks forward!):
UCLA - Jon Olson, RHP, So. (0-0, 4.26 ERA)
Texas–Conner Mayes, RHP, Jr. (2-1, 3.95 ERA)
All games are televised on the Longhorn Network!
Thank you, Texas. Multiple replays of the games will air over the weekend on the Longhorn Network as well.
Of course, you can always turn down the sound and listen to two of the best in the game, UCLA’s John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm, who will have the call via UCLA’s online streaming audio. Or you can check live stats of the game.
Each team will win at least one game. Hopefully, UCLA can give Griffin Canning some run support tonight. I am split 50/50 on who will take two of three, but give the edge to Texas strictly on the home field advantage. Prove me wrong Bruins!
This is your UCLA v. Texas Game One open thread.