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The Showdown in the Desert: UCLA Baseball Faces Arizona State

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This series could go a long way to determine the PAC 12 Champion.

James Kaprielian
James Kaprielian
© Steve Jacobs

The UCLA Bruin baseball team (34-11; 16-5 PAC 12) heads to the desert to clash with the Arizona State Sun Devils (29-15, 14-7 PAC 12) in what figures to be THE series of the season in the conference. The Bruins are in first place in the PAC 12. ASU is just two games back. UC Berkeley and just$C* are three games back of UCLA. A lot can happen in this series. UCLA can either solidify its grip on the conference championship with a sweep or even a series win, or it could fall back into a four-way dog fight for the title with an ASU sweep (or make things interesting with a series loss). ASU will be pumped up for this series at home. The Bruins are an all-time 68-116 against the Sun Devils, a traditional powerhouse program. ASU has won the last two series against the Bruins; UCLA will be looking for its first series win in the Valley of the Sun since 2011.

THE STATISTICAL MATCHUP

Arizona State comes into the series ranked 16th, 11th, 13th, 7th, and 10th in the collegiate baseball ranking services, as opposed to UCLA’s rank of 5th, 3rd, 5th, 2nd, and 5th in the same services. ASU’s RPI is #26, compared to UCLA’s #4.

ASU is batting .304 as a team (2nd in the PAC 12) and has a team ERA of 4.11 (9th in the PAC 12), compared with a .292 batting average for UCLA (4th in the PAC 12) and a team ERA of 2.20 for the Bruins (1st in the PAC 12).

THE ARIZONA SUN DEVILS

ASU is coming off a series loss at UC Berkeley. It was their first series loss in conference play.

Virtually all of the Sun Devils’ lineup are hitting over .300. ASU has eight batters with 96 or more at bats who are hitting over .300. That is sick. Brian Serven and Colby Woodmansee are hitting over .300 and have very solid power numbers, with five home runs and 28 RBI and four home runs and 34 RBI, respectively. The ninth hitter in the lineup whose average is below .300—at .289—is RJ Ybarra, who has 5 dingers and 21 RBI. There are no easy outs in the ASU lineup.

UCLA does have a pitching advantage over ASU. The Bruins' team ERA is significantly better and, as you can see from the pitching matchups below, each UCLA starter has at least a one point advantage in ERA over his ASU counterpart. The lowest ERA on ASU’s staff belongs to closer, Ryan Burr, at 3.06. Burr has 13 saves and a 59/19 strikeout to walk ratio.

After the series with the Bruins, ASU takes on Wazzu at home and just$c* in Los Angeles in their final PAC 12 series.

THE UCLA BRUINS

The Bruins are driving in runs from all over their lineup. Seven UCLA batters have recorded over 20 RBI. Over the last 10 games, Darrell Miller, Jr. is hitting .382 with seven RBI and three runs scored, Ty Moore is hitting .350 with nine RBI and five runs scored, Kort Peterson is hitting .346 with five RBI and nine runs scored, and Trent Chatterton is hitting .321 with six RBI and three runs scored. Let's hope these guys stay hot and guys like Kevin Kramer, Brett Stephens, and Chris Keck do what they usually do.

UCLA’s team ERA is ranked second in the nation. The weekend starters have strong win loss records and spectacular ERAs. The bullpen has performed well of late, not only stalwarts Tucker Forbes, Grant Dyer, and Dave Berg, but also guys like Hunter Virant, Scott Burke, and Jake Bird.

The guy pictured above, UCLA's ace, James Kaprielian (8-4, 2.35), will be making his most significant start of his UCLA career. Hopefully that will change in late May and June, as each Friday night start will become more and more important. Kap had a great outing last week against Gonzaga, but the Sun Devils present a much stronger test. It is critical that Kap starts the Bruins off right tonight and I have great confidence that he will.

After this series, UCLA gets Arizona at home and then travels to Eugene to battle the Ducks to wrap up conference play.

THE MATCH UP

The following are the dates, times, and starting pitchers for the series:

Friday, May 8, 6:30 p.m. PT:

UCLA - James Kaprielian, RHP. Jr. (8-4; 2.34 ERA)

ASU - Seth Martinez, RHP, So. (2-0, 3.41 ERA)

Saturday, May 9, 6:30  p.m. PT

UCLA - Grant Watson, LHP, Sr. (7-4; 1.90 ERA)

ASU - Ryan Kellogg, LHP, Jr. (7-1, 3.76)

Sunday, May 10, 12:30 p.m. PT

UCLA - Griffin Canning, RHP, Fr. (7-1; 2.97 ERA)

ASU -Brett Lilek, LHP, Jr. (3-2, 3.97 ERA)

There is no TV for any of the games in the series. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call for all three games, including tonight’s 6:30 p.m. PT game, via streaming online audio. You can also follow live via online video stream, compliments of ASU. If you live in the Valley of the Sun, come out to Phoenix Municipal Stadium and cheer on our Bruins in this critical series. I know they appreciate the support on the road.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is the most important series of the season. All of us have had this one circled on our calendar for some time now. Both the Bruins and the Sun Devils have lived up to their expectations and both sport high national rankings. A top 8 seed and potential position to host a Super Regional could be on the line. After this series, UCLA could be up 5 games on the Sun Devils in the PAC 12 Conference. The Bruins could also be 1 game behind ASU. Or anywhere in between. The stakes are high. I am confident that Coach Savage will have the boys will be ready to rock and roll.

This is your UCLA vs. Arizona State Game One open thread.

Goooooooo Bruins!!!!