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UCLA Baseball: Road Series Win Over Top-20 North Carolina

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This is how you build your resume for postseason. North Carolina is expected to make the field of 64, probably as a 2 seed in a regional. And the Bruins showed that the preseason predictions, which have them as a Super-Regional host, are still on the mark.

Kevin Kramer is swinging a hot bat
Kevin Kramer is swinging a hot bat
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA had a weekend series scheduled in Chapel Hill against North Carolina. But when the weather turned brutal, UNC jumped into action and found a warmer weather site in Orlando. So the two teams met at a field which was farther from the home team's campus than Cowboy Stadium was from the Austin campus, for the football team's "neutral" site game against Texas.

North Carolina's loss was BruinNation's gain, however. Orlandobruin was able to attend all three games, and gave top notch commentary on a real time basis. Now if we could just get him out here for the Pac-12 season. He was clearly the reason the Bruins were able to take the series from the Tar Heels. Well that, and explosive hitting and solid starting pitching.

Here are the lines for the batting order for the 3 games, using the game 3 starting lineup-

Kevin Kramer  8-15, .533 BA, 6 runs scored

Luke Persico   8-17, .471 BA, 4 runs scored, 5 RBI's

Ty Moore        8-14, .572 BA, 5 runs scored, 3 RBI's

Chris Keck     4-13, .308 BA, 3 runs scored, 5 RBI's

Darren Miller Jr   2-7, 1 run scored, 1 RBI

Kort Peterson   3-14, 1 run scored, 2 RBI's

Sean Bouchard  2-11, 3 RBI's

Christoph Bono  2-13, 1 run scored, 1 RBI

Trent Chatterton  1-4, 2 runs scored

That is some serious firepower at the top of the lineup. And that does not include DH Brett Stephens, who had to come out of Friday's game and missed the Saturday and Sunday games. Stephens has a .471 batting average and a .654 on-base percentage. Put him at the top of the lineup in front of Kramer, Persico, Moore and Keck and the sparks definitely fly. It would be nice to get more production at the bottom of the order, but that will hopefully come in time. In the meantime, let's enjoy the ride.

All this offensive production translated into 8 runs in game 1 on Friday, 6 runs in game 2 on Saturday and 12 runs in game 3 on Sunday. That should have been enough for three wins, given our starting pitching and back end pen. But the middle relievers are still not quite in a groove, and we are also kicking the ball around quite a bit. The result was final scores of 8-5 on Friday for the win, 6-9 on Saturday for the loss, and 12-4 on Sunday for the win. Still, taking 2 out of 3 from a top 20 team three time zones away is a solid accomplishment.

The starting pitching, although not lights out, was definitely good enough to get us the wins. James Kaprielian threw 6 innings on Friday, giving up 3 earned runs, on 7 hits and 0 walks, and striking out 7. That works out to a 4.50 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Not his best outing, but he set us up and got a deserved win.

Grant Watson threw 5 innings on Saturday, giving up 2 earned runs, on 5 hits and 2 walks, and striking out 1. That works out to 3.60 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Watson flirted with danger, but left with the lead, and deserved better than a no-decision.

Cody Poteet threw 5 innings on Sunday, giving up 0 earned runs, on 4 hits but also 5 walks, and striking out 1. That is obviously a 0.00 ERA but is also a high 1.80 WHIP. Poteet wriggled out of jams, some of his own doing with the walks, and got the win.

At the back end of the pen, Grant Dyer was very effective as a set up pitcher. He threw 3.1 innings, giving up 1 earned run, on 4 hits with no walks, and striking out 3. That works out to a 2.90 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. As last year's midweek starter, Dyer has shown the ability to pitch for extended innings. That came in very handy during Sunday's getaway game, with an off day in sight.

And David Berg pitched twice in non-save situations. He was not lights out, as in 2013, but he did preserve (not save) the wins. He pitched 2 innings, giving up no earned runs, on 3 hits, but did not walk a batter and struck out the side in Sunday's 9th inning.

The difficulty came from the middle relievers. On a combined basis, Tucker Forbes, Scott Burke, Hunter Virant, and Griffin Canning pitched 4.2 innings. They gave up 4 earned runs (ERA 7.71). They gave up 10 hits and walked 5 batters. That works out to a 3.21 WHIP. You can not let more than 3 batters per inning get on base without giving up a lot of runs, and that is what happened. Hopefully, somebody (or somebodies) will step up to bridge the gap between the starters and the back end.

To put some further perspective on this, here is the combined line score for the three games-

UCLA  1 0 4  0 4 8  0 7 2     26

UNC   0 1 1  1 5 3  5 1 1     18

As you can see, the Bruins start somewhat slowly, but they really jump in the late innings. But North Carolina was able to do the same thing in the middle innings to the Bruins. Of North Carolina's 18 runs, only 4 were scored before the 5th inning. And 13 of the 18 runs were scored between the 5th and 7th innings. Only 2 of the 18 were scored after the 7th inning (some of this is related to UNC not batting when ahead in the 9th inning in game 2, but they did score only 2 runs in 5 innings in the 3 games after the 7th inning).

All in all, again, an excellent result, taking two out of three from a tournament team on the other side of the country. The Bruins now stay in the state of California for their next 16 games (wow !!). UCLA plays a Tuesday night game at home against Long Beach State, and then welcomes Michigan State for a weekend series Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon.

UCLA's excellent weekend is reflected in the current rankings. The Bruins remained #4 in the D1Baseball.com poll (UNC dropped from 6 to 11), and #8 in the Collegiate Baseball poll (UNC dropped from 19 to 21), but jumped to #8 in the current Baseball America poll from #11 (UNC dropped form 17 to 19).

UCLA is 6-1, and a top 10 team. Life is good.

Go Bruins !!