We have reached a critical juncture in the 2017 season for the UCLA Bruin Baseball team (19-18; 10-8 PAC 12). With only 18 regular season games remaining and a non-conference series against the Cal Poly Mustangs (18-21; 8-4 Big West) this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium, UCLA has an opportunity to pad its post-season resume with some wins.
That is not to say that the Mustangs will be a pushover. Cal Poly returns a ton of players from last season’s 32-25 campaign, and after a slow start to this season, the Mustangs have won four straight series, including taking two of three from then #8 ranked Cal State Fullerton (now ranked #16) last weekend. (All rankings courtesy of D1Baseball.com). Although Cal Poly lost its midweek contest, 6-3, to Fresno State on Wednesday, the Mustangs will not be intimidated by traveling to Westwood to face the Bruins.
Cal Poly is led by sophomore outfielder Alex McKenna, who leads the team in batting average (.368), home runs (4), RBI (26), runs (34), and stolen bases (11). If UCLA’s pitching can contain McKenna hitting out of the leadoff spot, the Bruins will have a much easier time on their hands.
UCLA’s pitchers will also need to be wary of senior Michael Sanderson (.344 BA) and freshman, Bradlee Beasley (.324 BA). The Mustangs, however, do not have a lot of power, hitting only ten home runs on the season (compared to UCLA’s 27).
On paper, Cal Poly’s starting pitching does not look great, as one starter, Erich Uelman has a poor record (2-6) but a solid ERA (3.21 ERA) and another, Bobby Ay, has a poor record (1-3) and a poor ERA (4.35 ERA). Saturday starter, Spencer Howard (3-1, 2.31 ERA) has both a good record and very good ERA. Overall, the Mustangs sport a team 3.85 ERA, which speaks to the quality of their bullpen, including their excellent closer, Michael Clark (4-0, 1.85 ERA, 6 SV).
The young and maturing Bruins have withstood a very tough stretch of their schedule, having played their last eight games, four at home and four on the road, against the likes of the #1 ranked Oregon State Beavers, the #11 ranked Long Beach State Dirtbags, and the #20 ranked Stanford Cardinal. The Bruins went 5-3 in that stretch, and two of those losses were tight, one run affairs against the best team in college baseball. No shame there. The Bruins most recent win was a drubbing of the Dirtbags at Blair Field on Tuesday night, by the score of 5-1.
UCLA is trending up and now enters a more favorable part of its schedule. Despite barely being over .500, UCLA is squarely on the postseason bubble and is projected to make the final 64 by both D1Baseball.com and Baseball America. A strong showing against Cal Poly this weekend would continue the momentum before a midweek home game against SDSU followed by a three game set against the Southern Cal Trogans at Dedeaux Field next weekend.
With UCLA’s starting pitching doing a great job in recent games and the Bruins getting better production throughout the entirety of their freshman laden lineup, the team is poised for a series win or perhaps a series sweep of the Cal Poly Mustangs. UCLA’s ace, Griffin Canning (3-2, 2.75 ERA), can start things off right for the Bruins tonight at 6 p.m. PT.
THE MATCH UP
The following are the date, times, and anticipated starting pitchers for the series:
Friday, April 28, 6:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Griffin Canning, RHP, Jr. (3-2; 2.75 ERA)
Cal Poly – Erich Uelman, RHP, Jr. (2-6, 3.21 ERA)
Saturday, April 29, 2:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA – Moises Ceja, RHP, Sr. (2-3, 2.44 ERA)
Cal Poly – Spencer Howard, RHP, So. (3-1, 2.31 ERA)
Sunday, April 30, 1:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA - Jon Olson, RHP, So. (2-1, 3.47 ERA)
Cal Poly – Bobby Ay, RHP, So. (1-3, 4.35 ERA)
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.
UCLA should win this series. If they are going to be the team that they want to be, the Bruins need to take care of business this weekend. A Bruin sweep would be great, but a series win is necessary.
This is your UCLA Bruins Baseball vs. Cal Poly Mustangs, Game One open thread.