The UCLA Bruin Baseball team (7-11, 1-2 PAC 12) continues its eight game home stand this weekend, hosting the UC Berkeley Golden Bears (9-9, 1-2 PAC 12) for a three game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium. First pitch for tonight’s game is at 6 p.m. PT. The Bruins are coming off their only win of the home stand so far, a come-from-behind, 8-7 victory over Arizona in extra innings last Sunday. The win snapped UCLA’s six game losing streak and the Bruins showed some moxie to come back, get the "W", and avoid the series sweep. The Golden Bears are coming off a series loss at home against the Oregon Ducks and, like the Bruins, have had their struggles this season as they break in lots of young players.
Like the Bruins, the Golden Bears are in rebuilding mode after losing almost all of their positional players and their top two starting pitchers to graduation and/or the MLB Draft. The most interesting story line for tonight’s game involves the UC Berkeley starting pitcher and the reshuffling of the Golden Bears’ rotation.
Up until tonight’s start, Tanner Dodson had been the Golden Bears’ Friday night starter. Dodson, however, has 1-4 record with a 4.67 ERA, and got shelled last weekend against Oregon. As a result, UC Berkeley Head Coach, David Esquer, has decided to move Dodson to the Sunday starting role, and give tonight’s start to freshman, Jared Horn. Although Horn’s ERA is worse than Dodson’s, Horn was a heralded recruit last year and may have a higher upside than Dodson. This move means that UC Berkeley’s usual Sunday starter, Joey Matulovich, will move into the Saturday starting slot.
If UC Berkeley has a lead late in the game, except the Golden Bears to turn to Erik Martinez, who has three saves on the season and a 0.93 ERA. Overall, the Golden Bears’ pitching staff is solid, sporting a 3.72 ERA as a team.
UC Berkeley is also hitting the ball pretty well, with a team batting average of .281. The Golden Bears have power, hitting 14 home runs in their 18 games, and maintaining a .402 slugging percentage.
The Golden Bears' most dangerous hitter is freshman Andrew Vaughn, who is hitting .329 with four home runs and 14 RBI. Vaughn typically hits out of the number 3 slot.
Setting the table for Vaughn are two other guys hitting above .300, leadoff hitter Cameron Eden (.365, 1 HR, 5 RBI) and Jeffrey Mitchell, Jr. (.333, 2 HR, 9 RBI), hitting out of the two spot. Yes, the top of the UC Berkeley’s lineup is tough, very tough.
After throwing 1.1 innings last Friday night before the game was postponed due to fog, UCLA’s Friday starter, Griffin Canning, also got the start for UCLA last Sunday. Tonight Canning will be back in his Friday starter role and, hopefully, the Bruins can give him some much needed run support, as he has yet to notch a win this season despite pitching very well. I like Canning tonight in the match up against the freshman, Horn.
Moises Ceja will start for UCLA on Saturday in place of the injured Jake Bird, who has now missed three starts after starting the season 2-0. Ceja has started two games this season, but this is the first time that he is actually listed at the starter. Jon Olson will take the hill for the Bruins on Sunday.
UCLA’s team ERA ballooned last weekend to 3.90. Giving up 19 runs in one game will do that.
The Bruins’ team batting average is starting to creep up toward respectability, but it is not there yet. The Bruins are hitting .237 as a team, and only two regular starters are hitting over .250.
The first is freshman, Kyle Cuellar, who is scorching the ball, batting at a .441 clip. Cuellar has 10 RBI, despite starting in only half of UCLA’s games. Cuellar has played his way into a starter’s role.
The other Bruin who is hitting over .300 is Sean Bouchard, who is at .333 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI. After that, the next best hitter for UCLA, average-wise, is Daniel Amaral, at .250. That is not going to get it done. If certain players do not start doing a better job at the plate, I expect to see more starts from younger players like freshman, Jeremy Ydens and Jordan Myrow, both of whom are hitting .286 in limited at bats.
The following are the date, times, and anticipated starting pitchers for the series:
Friday, March 24th at 6 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Griffin Canning, RHP, Jr. (0-1; 1.89 ERA)
UC Berkeley – Jared Horn, RHP, Fr. (1-2, 5.32 ERA)
Saturday, March 25th at 4 p.m. PT:
UCLA – Moises Ceja, RHP, Sr. (1-1, 1.69 ERA)
UC Berkeley – Joey Matulovich, RHP, So. (3-0, 3.18 ERA)
Sunday, March 26th at 2 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Jon Olson, RHP, So. (0-1, 5.50 ERA)
UC Berkeley – Tanner Dodson, RHP, So. (1-4, 4.67 ERA)
The entire series will be televised on the PAC 12 Network. UCLA’s dynamic duo of John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call via online streaming audio. And/or you can allow follow along with live stats.
Last season, the Golden Bears swept UCLA in Berkeley. Although I do not expect the Bruins to return the favor, I do think that UCLA will take two out of three, and get the series win this weekend. And I think that Griffin Canning will get his first victory of the season tonight.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!
This is your UCLA v. UC Berkeley Game One open thread.