The UCLA Bruin baseball team (3-0) travels to Atlanta for the weekend to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1). Last weekend, UCLA swept St. John’s without giving up an earned run, while Tech won two of three at home, beating Illinois-Chicago and West Virginia, while losing to Richmond.
Last Time Out
The Bruins faced Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night, prevailing 5-0 and extending their unearned run streak to four straight games. It is the first time UCLA has gone four straight games without an earned run since the 2011 season.
Most of the damage came in the third inning, when UCLA plated four runs. The first run came when freshman, Matt McLain drew a bases loaded walk. The remaining three runs came on a bases loaded triple by Jake Pries, who has started the season hot, hitting .500 with five hits and five RBI.
UCLA scored the only other run of the game in the seventh inning on a Ryan Kreidler sacrifice fly, scoring McLain.
Freshman Nick Nastrini started the game for the Bruins, but did not get the win because he didn’t pitch the minimum five innings, falling short by one batter, going 42⁄3 innings. Nastrini struck out nine batters and UCLA relied on a solid bullpen performance to secure the win. In all, UCLA pitchers struck out 17 Lion batters on the night.
The Yellow Jackets should give UCLA a strong test on the road. Playing in the ultra-competitive ACC, many predict Georgia Tech to make the postseason this year, although they failed to do so in 2017 and 2018. The two teams have not faced each other since 1999.
Junior right-hander Xzavion Curry (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will take the hill for the Yellow Jackets today and it will be his third season as the “ace” Friday night starter. So, he has plenty of experience. Curry throws hard, and was still in the mid-90s in his final inning of work last weekend. UCLA, however, is most definitely not Illinois-Chicago and will present a stiffer challenge for Curry.
Georgia Tech will also throw a pair of left-handed starters against UCLA this weekend, with junior Connor Thompson starting on Saturday and junior Brant Hurter taking the mound for Tech on Sunday. Thompson threw seven innings last weekend, allowing three unearned runs and Hurter struck out three and walked one in one inning of work.
The Yellow Jackets are only hitting .238 as a team through three games and that were against competition that likely will not challenge for the postseason. Nevertheless, UCLA should watch out for Kyle McCann, who homered twice last weekend. Another interesting player for Tech is Tristan English, who pitched three innings out of the bullpen last weekend and played first base, hitting .273. English, a junior, has been named to the All-ACC First Team in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Although Georgia Tech is predicted to be in the mix for the postseason, UCLA is predicted to be in the mix for a trip to the College World Series. The Bruins have superior pitching talent and it appears that UCLA is better at the plate as well.
But this is a long road trip three time zones away in a hostile environment. I think that will be enough for Georgia Tech to steal one game from the Bruins with UCLA taking the other two games to win the series.
This is your UCLA versus Georgia Tech game one open thread. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.