The UCLA Bruins baseball team (42-8, 19-5 Pac-12) continued its productive season on Tuesday night, beating UC Irvine by the score of 7-0, and finishing their midweek scheduled an undefeated 11-0 in 2019. The Bruins now welcome the Washington Huskies (28-19, 12-12 Pac-12) to Jackie Robinson Stadium in the final regular season home series. UCLA has no midweek game next week before it travels to Oregon for three games to end the regular season.
UCLA dropped in RPI to #2 despite winning all of its games last week due to the poor RPI of Washington State and Long Beach State. Vanderbilt moved ahead of the Bruins despite losing one of its games to Missouri. Oh, that damned RPI. Still, the Bruins remain the only team in the country to have not lost a series this season.
Further, UCLA goes into the weekend tied with Stanford and Oregon State atop the Pac-12. And it just so happens that the Cardinal and the Beavers play each other this weekend, so it should be interesting to see how things develop through the weekend.
Last Time Out
In Tuesday night’s 7-0 win over UC Irvine, the Bruins got on the board in the second inning, care of a misplayed and dropped two-out fly ball off the bat of Matt McLain, which scored Jeremy Ydens, who returned to UCLA’s lineup after a long injury layoff, and Jarron Silva, both runs unearned. UCLA led 2-0.
Ryan Kreidler added a breadstick in the third inning to increase UCLA’s lead to 3-0, with a solo home run off the top of the scoreboard in left field.
The Bruins would pound out four runs in the top of the fifth inning. Will McInerny led off with a single and, after an out, took second when Kreidler drew a walk. McInerny advanced on a past ball and was singled home by Chase Strumpf. Michael Toglia came to the plate and delivered a double down the right field line, scoring both Kreidler and Strumpf. After another UCLA out, Silva singled home Toglia to put the Bruins up 7-0, a score that would not change in the final 41⁄2 innings.
Ydens returned to UCLA’s lineup after missing most of the season due to a broken hand. Hitting out of the #7 spot and playing right field, Ydens went 3-for-4 and scored a run. His return just makes UCLA an even deeper team as we inch closer to the postseason.
There was intrigue on the mound as well. Felix Rubi threw five innings of three-hit, no-run ball in earning the first victory of his UCLA career. Congratulations, Felix!
More surprising was Rubi’s replacement: the big left-hander Justin Hooper—yes, you heard that right—Justin Hooper in the sixth inning. Hooper missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. So, Tuesday night was his first performance since 2017. Hooper retired two batters, but left the game with the bases loaded. Hooper didn’t give up any hits, but he had control problems, hitting a batter and walking two. Still, it was nice to see Justin back and perhaps he can help the Bruins in the postseason.
Nate Hadley got Hooper out of the jam in the sixth and also pitched the seventh, allowing two hits but no runs. Kyle Mora handled the eighth, allowing only a two-out single. Holden Powell came in to pitch the ninth and, although he loaded the bases with three straight two-out walks, he induced a fly out to center field to end the game and preserve the shutout.
Washington is squarely on the postseason bubble. So, you can bet that the Huskies would relish a road win or two against the Bruins to bolster their postseason resume.
The Huskies have not played well against the cream of the Pac-12. They were swept by both Oregon State and Stanford. They have, however, won five straight games and eight of their last nine.
The Huskies are average in both their batting and their pitching. Offensively, Washington is hitting .268 on the season. Two regular starters, Nick Kahle (.351, 8 HR, 49 RBI) and Braiden Ward (.314, 1 HR, 25 RBI), are hitting over .300. Although DH Joe Wainhouse is only hitting .174, he does have ten home runs.
Washington’s team ERA is 4.04. Their weekend starters have earned run averages between 3.91 and 4.91. Aside from Stevie Emanuels (30 appearances, 6 saves, 2.39 ERA), U-Dub’s bullpen has had its issues this season.
Freshman righthander David Rhodes (5-4, 4.09 ERA) will take the hill for the Huskies tonight. UCLA will counter with Ryan Garica (7-0, 1.27 ERA). First pitch is at 6 pm PT and the game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks Los Angeles and Washington.
I expect a series win out of UCLA this weekend. A sweep would be optimal. A series loss would be disappointing.
This is your UCLA Bruins versus Washington Huskies baseball game one open thread.