The UCLA Bruin baseball team (32-16, 15-9 PAC 12) welcomes the Oregon Ducks (25-24, 11-13 PAC 12) to Jackie Robinson Stadium this weekend for the final home series of the regular season. First pitch for tonight’s game is a little earlier than usual, at 4:00 p.m. PT.
The last two weeks have not been good for UCLA baseball. Before the Arizona series, UCLA was 30-10, and 14-4 in conference. Since then, the Bruins have gone 2-7 (including a loss in a previously suspended game against Northridge, which the Bruins were leading 3-2 in the 8th inning at the time of suspension).
As a result, the Bruins now sit in 4th place in conference, three games behind PAC 12 leading Stanford. UCLA has also tumbled in the rankings and RPI. Two weeks ago, UCLA looked to be a lock for hosting a regional, with the possibility of hosting a super regional in they were to advance. Now, they are on the cusp between being a #2 or #3 seed in another region.
Suffice to say, this series is HUGE for the Bruins especially with the toughest series of the season yet to come next week, at Oregon State.
Oregon is coming off of a sweep of the Utah Utes in Eugene last weekend. Although they have won three straight, the Ducks are not a formidable squad away from home, going 6-15 on the season. Indeed, after having a lot of success earlier in the decade, including three straight 40 win seasons, Oregon has failed to make the postseason the last two years. Short of winning out this weekend and next weekend at home against Arizona, the Ducks’ postseason drought will extend into 2018.
The major reason for Oregon’s struggles this season come from the plate, where Oregon is hitting a paltry .241, worst in the PAC 12. In fact, Oregon is in the bottom three in all major offensive statistics in conference. Only one regular starter, junior Jakob Goldfarb (.320, 6 HR, 27 RBI) is hitting over .300. Two regular starters, Ryne Nelson (.182, 0 HR, 7 RBI) and Jonny DeLuca (.206, 5 HR, 27 RBI), and two guys who start about half the time, Daniel Patzlaff (.188, 1 HR, 12 RBI) and Taylor Travess (.208, 0 HR, 10 RBI) are hitting below the “Mendoza line” (.220).
Oregon’s pitching is in the middle of the pack in conference, with a 3.95 ERA. Kenyon Yovan (5-3, 2.55 ERA), who will start tonight against the Bruins, is having a solid season, after starting the year coming out of the bullpen. Yovan got his first start in late March, and since that start, has gone at least six innings in every outing. Yovan is clearly the Ducks best pitcher, as he leads the team in saves with six, despite being a starter for more than half of the season.
The Bruins’ fall from grace has been swift and there is not one single thing upon which to pin those losses. During its 2-7 slump, UCLA has lost in several different ways (contrast that to earlier in the season, when they were finding new and unique ways to win ballgames).
Before drubbing CSUN on Tuesday, UCLA lost its prior two games in extra innings on walk-off home runs. In the game before that, the Bruins dug themselves a 4-0 hole in the 1st inning.
Before that, UCLA beat Washington in the series opener but, prior to that game, UCLA only scored five runs in four games, losing all of them.
The good news is that Jake Bird (6-3, 2.05 ERA) will take the hill for the Bruins tonight. In the 2-7 stretch, Bird has one win and was the hard luck loser, 2-0, in a complete game performance. Hopefully, the Bruins bats will provide Jake with some run support tonight.
The Bruins have been disappointing of late but I believe that they will take two of three from Oregon this weekend. In my opinion, the critical game is going to be tomorrow’s contest, as Zach Pettway, who was so good earlier this season, has lost his last two starts and was shelled by Washington last weekend. Hopefully Zach bounces back tomorrow night.
This is your UCLA Bruin baseball versus Oregon Ducks game one open thread. Go Bruins!!!