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After Making History, UCLA Looks for the Series Win Over Arizona

Grant Watson has some big shoes to fill after the performance by James Kaprielian and Dave Berg last night.

These guys combined for the no-no last night
These guys combined for the no-no last night

After making history last night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, when James Kaprielian and Dave Berg combined for a 10 inning no-hitter, UCLA’s first no-hitter in program history (nobody has been able to show otherwise and I’ve seen separate accounts going back to 1974 and, more recently, 1946), the Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats are back on the diamond this afternoon in game two of the series. You can read about the details of the no-hitter here, as well as an interesting debate in the comments about what should and shouldn’t be said about an emerging no-hitter and the superstitions surrounding the reporting of such an event.

For me the euphoria has not worn off. Last night’s game was different than a typical no-hitter, in that the no-hitter, the shut out, and the game were in doubt until Kevin Kramer cashed in Christoph Bono for the sole run with a sacrifice fly to center field in the bottom of the tenth. The uncertainty of a potential loss in the face of such an accomplishment made the game all the more exciting and special.

As a result of the 1-0 UCLA victory, the Bruins (39-12; 19-6 PAC 12) are now 3 ½ games clear of the pack behind them for the PAC 12 crown. A UCLA win tonight combined with an ASU loss to Wazzu would eliminate the Sun Devils from Pac 12 contention. A UCLA win tonight combined with an Oregon State loss to Stanford would eliminate the Beavers from contention. UC Berkeley and just$c* start their series tonight, with the loser of each game falling further out of contention.

From the perspective of the postseason, UCLA is squarely in the picture for a national seed. Some other teams in contention already have one or more losses this week, with more games to play. LSU has a loss; Louisville has 2 losses; Florida has a loss; Florida State has 2 losses. These teams, along with TCU, Texas A&M, Illinois (26 straight game winning streak), Vandy, and UCSB round out the potential national seeds at this point. All of those contenders have conference tournaments next week, except for UCLA and UCSB. UCLA needs to keep up its winning ways to remain in contention not only for hosting a regional (which is pretty much a done deal, barring a major collapse down the stretch), but for potentially hosting a super-regional, as a result of being nationally seeded.

Let’s not forget that the Arizona Wildcats (28-21, 12-16 PAC 12) are the top hitting team in the PAC 12. Before the no-no last night, ‘Zona’s lowest hit output on the year was four.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, however, as the Bruins need to get their bats going with runners in scoring position. I know that sounds strange after such an epic win, but UCLA is not going to get that kind of pitching performance out of Kap, or any other starter, on a consistent basis. UCLA was 0-12 with runners in scoring position last night. (I included the game winning sac fly as part of the oh-fer--whether that is statistically correct or not I do not know. 0-12 with "ducks on the pond" is not going to get it done against this Wildcat team, which likely will not be held down offensively for the remainder of the series.

It is time to turn the page from yesterday. Tonight, Grant Watson (7-4, 2.20 ERA) will take the hill for the Bruins in his last regular season start as home as a Bruin. It should be a fun night for Grant. Hopefully, he’ll get the “W.” Junior right-hander, Nathan Bannister (6-4, 4.20 ERA), gets the start for the Arizona Wildcats.

The game will be televised on the PAC 12 Network. You can follow James Ramey and Tim Wilhelm via online audio stream or you can follow via live game stats. Better yet, if you live in LA, come out to Jackie Robinson Stadium and cheer on your Bruins!

This is your UCLA v. Arizona Game 2 Open Thread. Fire away with your thoughts and comments (don’t be shy!). Go Bruins!!!