Fresh off their series win on the road against Georgia Tech and after edging Cal State Northridge at CSUN on Tuesday night by the score of 4-3, the #3-ranked UCLA baseball team (7-1) welcomes the Sacramento State Hornets (3-4) to Westwood for a three-game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium. First pitch in game one is tonight at 6 pm PT.
The Bruins, winners of three straight after losing last Friday evening’s contest in 11 innings, have ridden strong pitching, both from the starters and the bullpen, to start the season.
This has helped as the UCLA offense has been a bit inconsistent so far this season. Sometimes, they get the big hits in crucial situations. Sometimes, they don’t.
Last Time Out
This was somewhat the case in UCLA’s last outing, a nailbiting 4-3 victory at CSUN. UCLA left nine runners on base. Personally, I think the team was tired, having played in Atlanta less than 48 hours earlier.
UCLA got off on the right foot, scoring two runs in the third inning on a Matt McLain two-RBI single. UCLA might have gotten more, but Michael Toglia was thrown out at third on the play, ending the inning shortly after Jake Pries and Jeremy Ydens stepped on home plate.
Freshman starting pitcher Nick Nastrini pitched great, throwing five innings of three hit, no run ball. It was when UCLA’s middle relievers was called upon in the sixth inning that the Bruins found themselves in hot water.
The 2-0 lead evaporated in the bottom of the sixth with the Matadors plating three runs on four hits, a walk, a hit batter, and a wild pitch. UCLA sophomore Michael Townsend and freshman Jake Filby were responsible for the damage, but UCLA’s pen was lights out for the final three innings, allowing no runs, no hits, and only one baserunner. Nate Hadley, who was credited with the win, Kyle Mora, and Holden Powell (who got the save) closed the door for the Bruins.
UCLA did just enough to scratch out the necessary two runs to turn the 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 victory. A Ryan Kreidler RBI single scored Ydens in the seventh inning and the winning run was all Matt McLain. McLain singled, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and, in the same play, scored on a catcher’s error, giving the Bruins a lead they would not relinquish.
The Sacramento State Hornets come to Westwood with a 3-4 record. The Hornets took two of three at home from North Dakota State, and then played four games against Pacific, two at home, and two on the road. The Hornets lost both road games and split the two home games with the Tigers. All of the Hornets’ losses were by three or more runs and Sac State is 0-2 on the road.
Sacramento State now faces a significant upgrade in competition with #3 UCLA.
Tonight’s starting pitching matchup is interesting as UCLA’s sophomore Zack Pettway, who is 0-0 despite a 2.08 ERA, squares off against Parker Brahms, who is 0-2 despite a 3.60 ERA. It may very well be the case that the Hornets have trouble scoring runs, which, if true, would seem to be heightened this weekend due to the strength of the UCLA pitching staff. Indeed, the Bruins sport a team ERA of 1.11,
Saturday’s matchup is also interesting, as neither UCLA’s Jack Ralston nor Sac. State’s Scott Randall has lost this season. Both hurlers have impressive ERAs.
Sacramento State has not announced its pitcher for Sunday’s matchup. Whomever gets the call will face UCLA’s red hot freshman, Jessie Bergen (2-0, 0.00 ERA).
Sac. State’s limitations at the plate are borne out by the statistics: the Hornets are only hitting .205 as a team, barely above “the Mendoza line”; have on on-base percentage of .313; and have a slugging percentage of .281. The Hornets have only one home run on the season and only one hitter, junior outfielder Matt Smith, is hitting over .300. Smith is at .310.
This might be UCLA’s easiest series of the season. The strength of UCLA’s pitching versus Sacramento State’s weak hitting does not bode well for the Hornets. At a minimum, UCLA should win this series. A sweep should be the expectation. A series loss would be embarrassing.
This is your UCLA versus Sacramento State game one open thread. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.