The UCLA Bruin baseball team (22-10, 11-4 PAC 12) moves into the second half of conference play this weekend by playing its rivalry series with the gut-wrenching Southern Cal Trojans (18-15, 6-9 PAC 12) in the annual “Crosstown Showdown.”
First pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium tonight is a little later than usual, at 7:00 p.m. PT.
Even if you cannot make it to Westwood, the game will be televised on the PAC 12 Networks (if you have the correct dish, streaming, or cable option, that is; thanks Larry Scott) so you can follow along on TV!
Southern Cal Trojans
I have made no secret of my distaste for the Trojans. Just going to their website to research their team for these articles turns my stomach. This is not the first time.
So, I am just going to link to their stat sheet rather than tell you who to watch out for at the plate and on the mound and regurgiate—and it would be regurgitating—some stats and names. Kyle Hurt (2-3, 4.20 ERA) gets the start for Southern Cal.
Sorry that’s all you get. I cannot give any more.
Ahhh, better, the nausea has passed . . .
UCLA was feeling pretty good after sweeping Utah on the road last weekend. Yes, the Utes are well below .500 and not a postseason team, but Utah did take two of three from Oregon State earlier in the season. Also, playing at altitude can be tricky. But the Bruins coasted in the two games on Friday and Sunday, and showed some grit coming back to win in Saturday.
Those good feelings dissipated after the Bruins were soundly beaten at home, 8-1, by UC Irvine on in the midweek game on Tuesday. It was the Bruins’ second consecutive midweek loss, and raised some questions about the team echoing the 2017 season against lesser competition on paper, when such losses were more prevalent.
Now, UCLA is faced with another perceived lesser opponent on paper, but that opponent is in the form of the Bruins’ blood rivals and a team that bested UCLA earlier in the season, 3-2, at Dodger Stadium.
That was the game in which UCLA starting pitcher, Jon Olsen, was hit in the face with a batted ball, fracturing several facial bones. Although Olsen has started the last two Sundays, in an interesting twist, Head Coach John Savage has listed his Sunday starter as “TBA.” Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Bruins’ Sunday starter in 2016, Kyle Molnar, just happened to throw in his first live game, last weekend at Utah, since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June, 2016. Will it be Olsen? Molnar? Someone else?
Those questions will need to wait until Sunday.
Tonight, UCLA will send Jake Bird (4-2, 1.65 ERA) to the mound. Jake has pitched well the last two weeks, both wins, going 7 and 1⁄3 innings and giving up only two earned runs in each start.
Bruin fans should feel good about Bird, a senior in his last regular season game againt Southern Cal, on the mound tonight.
The Bruins need a series win against the Trojans. This is probably the Bruins easiest conference series remaining in the season (maybe a case can be made against Oregon at home in mid-May), with tough outs at Arizona, at Washington, and at Oregon State still remaining on the slate. Wins will be tough to come by in those series so UCLA needs to load up on conference home victories for the rest of the year.
The Bruins must be laser focused on the task at hand this weekend. They cannot sleep on Southern Cal and, motiviated by a close loss to the Trojans earlier in the season, I don’t think they will be. I think that UCLA will take two of three.
This is your UCLA Bruin baseball versus Southern Cal Trojans open thread.