The UCLA Bruins baseball team (7-0) will play the final game of its eight game home stand tonight at 6 p.m. PT. I am not counting the 15-1 exhibition victory over Keio University (Tokyo, Japan) yesterday as part of the eight-game home stand.
Tonight, UCLA will face what might be its most difficult challenge so far on the season in the undefeated Pepperdine Waves. Pepperdine has a couple of quality wins against big programs in Oregon and Minnesota, as well as a series win at home versus Akron. Tonight’s game should be a good challenge for the Bruins before they head to Frisco Texas this weekend to play Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Illinois in the Frisco College Classic.
LAST TIME OUT
On Sunday, UCLA completed the sweep of St. Mary’s with a 2-0 victory. It was not as emphatic as the Bruins’ 5-0 or 7-1 wins earlier in the series, but UCLA did enough offensively and the UCLA pitching staff continued to shine.
The Bruins would score both of their runs in the third inning. Will McInerny started things off for UCLA with a one-out single. Garrett Mitchell followed with a double, but McInerny was thrown out at the plate trying to score. Freshman Michael Curialle came up with a clutch, two-out single to right field to score Mitchell and put the Bruins up 1-0. After Curialle stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, Matt McLain’s infield single would score the freshman, resulting in the final score of 2-0.
Meanwhile, Jesse Bergin had another quality start for UCLA, throwing 5.1 innings, allowing no runs and scattering five hits. Bergin earned the win. Michael Townsend, Kyle Mora, and Holden Powell (who earned his second save on the season) combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. The UCLA bullpen still has not yet given up a run this season. UCLA’s team ERA of 0.71 is second in the nation.
Tonight, UCLA will start Jared Karros (1-0, 1.80 ERA) in his second appearance in a UCLA uniform. Last week against Loyola Marymount, Karros threw five innings, allowing one earned run on two hits.
Pepperdine has four hitters who are batting .370 or better, and those guys should hit in the two through five slots tonight. In the projected order they are expected to appear in the Pepperdine lineup, those four players are: center fielder Billy Cook (.379, 2 HR, 7 RBI), third baseman Aharon Modlin (.448, 1 HR, 6 RBI), first baseman Justin Lutes (.370, 2 HR, 9 RBI), and right fielder Reese Alexiades (.429, 0 HR, 7 RBI). That is quite a murderer’s row, but the bottom half of the lineup is not quite as potent. If UCLA starter Jared Karros can make it through the top half of the lineup two times unscathed, I like the Bruins chances with their excellent bullpen.
Tonight, the Waves will start redshirt sophomore Gunnar Groen on the mound. Groen started the midweek game against Cal Poly last Tuesday and also pitched three scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Pepperdine’s first game of the season versus San Diego. In the midweek game against the Mustangs, Groen gave up a run on two hits in five innings. That is literally the exact same stat line that Jared Karros had in his midweek start last week.
Both teams are undefeated. Both starters are green, and had virtually identical starts (from a stats perspective) in midweek games last week. Pepperdine is hitting the ball a bit better than the Bruins, with a team average of .316 to UCLA’s .293. This should be a fun game and I give the Bruins a slight edge based purely on the two teams’ respective pedigrees. Anything can happen though, especially with two young pitchers.