The #16 UCLA baseball team (35-17, 18-9 PAC 12) saved what figures to be the most challenging series of the year for the final weekend of the regular season, as the Bruins travel to Corvallis, Oregon to take on the #2 Oregon State Beavers (42-9-1, 18-8-1 PAC 12). If UCLA can earn a series win on the road, it will have a strong argument that it should host a regional when the postseason gets underway next weekend.
Due to the holiday weekend, the series gets an early start—first pitch is today at 4 p.m. PT—and wraps up on Saturday. The NCAA postseason selection show takes place two days later, at 12 p.m. on Memorial Day.
Both teams trail Stanford for the PAC 12 Championship, and the Cardinal are at Washington this weekend. The best the Bruins can do would be to earn a share of first place, but that is unlikely as it would require a UCLA sweep and Stanford to be swept by the Huskies. The Beavers need a sweep as well, and for Stanford to be swept, in order to claim the championship outright.
OREGON STATE BEAVERS
Despite losing all world second baseman Nick Madrigal for much of the season—he has played in 26 games, exactly half of the 52 games played by the Beavers so far—the Beavers have still made an argument to be the favorite if they make it to Omaha. The Beavers have the third best team batting average in the country, hitting a scorching .324 as a team. They are also third in on-base percentage, at .419.
Individually, Oregon State is led by Madrigal (.435, 2 HR, 27 RBI), a Golden Spikes Award finalist in 2017 and 2018. But the Beavers can beat you pretty much anywhere in their lineup. No regular starter hits below .261, and six regulars are hitting above .300. Adlet Ruschmann (.402, 6 HR, 63 RBI), who plays catcher and first base, is hitting .402. (#10 in the nation).
The Beavers also have a lot of power, combining for 51 home runs on the season. In that department, they are helmed by right fielder Trevor Larnich (.328, 17 HR, 64 RBI). OSU is 5th in the nation in slugging percentage, at .495.
Oregon State also has a very good pitching staff. The Beavers’ team ERA is 3.54.They are led by senior lefty, Luke Heimlich (13-1, 2.69 ERA), who will get the start for the Beavers tonight. It will be really easy to root against the Oregon State left hander this afternoon.
The Beavers’ Staruday starter, Bryce Fehmel (8-1, 2.93 ERA) is also very good. After that, the game three starter is TBA. Sohpomore Jake Mulholland (1-2, 2.41 ERA) is an excellent closer. A lefty, Mulholland, has 14 saves on the year.
After losing two straight roads series at Arizona and at Washington, going 1-5 in those games, UCLA swept the Oregon Ducks last weekend and, frankly, it wasn’t close. The Bruins scores double digit runs in all three games.
UCLA has raised its team batting average to .292, and almost all of the regular starters—with the exception of the catcher platoon and Ryan Kreidler—are hitting .278 or better. And Kreidler had a fine weekend at the plate against Oregon.
UCLA pitching continues to shine, with a team ERA of 2.98, 6th in the nation. Jake Bird (7-3, 1.97 ERA) gets the start for the Bruins this afternoon, in what could be a pitcher’s duel.
Jeremy Ydens (.370, 5 HR, 36 RBI) is swinging a very hot bat for the Bruins, and is now leading the team in batting average at .370. Ydens was named PAC 12 Player of the Week based on his performance last week. Chase Strumpf (.367, 12 HR, 52 RBI) and Michael Toglia (.333, 11 HR, 53 RBI) continue to hit for average and power for the Bruins.
The Bruins RPI is presently #30 in the nation. A couple of road wins at Oregon State could vault UCLA into the top 16 in RPI, giving the Bruins a strong argument to host a regional. A #16 ranking could be the kiss of death, however, as the Bruins would then be on track to face the defending champions and #1 ranked Florida in a super regional match up.
I think that the Bruins will get it done this weekend, and take two of three from the Beavers. This is a prediction from the heart, not from the head. UCLA will need to play much, much better than it did in its two previous road series.
This is your UCLA Bruins baseball versus Oregon State Beavers game one open thread.