The UCLA Bruins baseball team (43-14), fresh off its 7-2 victory over the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, squares off against the Maryland Terrapins (40-21) tonight at 8:00 p.m. PT, in a battle of the #1 and #2 seeds in the Los Angeles Regional. The Terps outlasted the Ole Miss Rebels yesterday, 3-1. The winner of tonight’s game will have the inside track to win the Regional, and the loser will face the winner of today’s matchup between Bakersfield and Ole Miss, in what will be an elimination game. You can read about the Bruins’ win over the road runners last night here.
In its victory, Maryland got a strong outing from its ace, Mike Shawaryn, who pitched 5 and 1/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits. Shawaryn raised his record to a stellar 13-2 this season. The Terps put a two spot on the board in the top of the 1st inning, the result of three straight doubles and another single. Thereafter, each team was only able to scratch out a single run for the remainder of the game, resulting in the final 3-1 tally. Maryland was helped by the glove of its centerfielder, LaMonte Wade, who in the 8th inning made a dazzling play, robbing Ole Miss of a home run, which would have narrowed the margin to 3-2, and potentially rallied the Rebels to victory. You can read more about the Maryland Terrapin’s baseball team in BN's L.A. Regional preview.
UCLA is expected to throw senior, left-hander, Grant Watson (8-4, 2.08 ERA), against the Terps. Watty has extensive postseason experience, due to the Bruins' National Championship in 2013. He also matches up well against Maryland’s lineup, which features multiple left-handed hitters. Will Maryland sits some of its usual, more experienced left-handed starters and instead go with more right-handed bats? Watson can be very tough on left-handed hitters, but you want your most experienced guys out there in the big games, right? This is a very intriguing situation and I am eager to see how Maryland will play it.
I expect to see Maryland throw freshman, right-hander, Brain Shaffer (5-1, 4.73 ERA). Although Shaffer is a freshman and has no postseason experience, he shut down the University of Illinois in his last outing, snapping the Fighting Illini’s 27-game winning streak. It will be interesting to see how Shaffer reacts to spotlight of the postseason, on the road, on the left coast. The Bruins will, of course, look to get runners on early in the game and keep Shaffer off balance by putting pressure on him and his teammates on the base paths. This strategy has served the Bruins well over the years in the postseason, as well as against Bakersfield last night.
First pitch is at 8:00 p.m., PT. UCLA is technically the "road" team tonight, so the Bruins will don their road greys, the best uniform in all of baseball. The game will be televised on ESPNU. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call via online streaming audio. Live stats are available via the NCAA website.
This is your UCLA v. Maryland Los Angeles Regional, Game 4 Open Thread.