After prevailing in three straight must-win games and coming out of the elimination bracket in the Los Angeles Regional, the UCLA Bruins baseball team (51-9) now hosts the Michigan Wolverines (44-19), winners of the Corvallis Regional, in the Super Regional round of the NCAA postseason baseball tournament. First pitch of the first game of the Supers is tonight at 6 pm PT at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2, as will all of the games in this series..
This will not be the first time these two teams have met this year. On March 8, 2019, Michigan beat UCLA, 7-5, at Jackie Robinson Stadium as a part of the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic. So, the Wolverines know that they can win on the Bruins’ home turf.
In that game, UCLA’s Friday starter at the time Zach Pettway was shelled by Michigan early in the game, giving up four runs in the first and two runs in the third, as the Wolverines jumped out to the 6-0 lead. Although UCLA made a game of it, pulling to within one run, 6-5, after the seventh inning, they could not overcome the early inning deficit.
No disrespect to Pettway, but Michigan will be facing a much different pitcher tonight in Ryan Garcia (10-0, 1.36 ERA). So will the Bruins, however. Tommy Henry (9-5, 3.61 ERA), who earned the win in March, is scheduled to pitch in the Sunday game, if necessary. Instead, Wolverine Head Coach Erik Bakich will turn to Karl Kauffmann (9-6, 2.62 ERA) to take the hill against the Bruins tonight.
During the regular season, Michigan tied Indiana for the Big 10 regular season title and, then, was eliminated by Nebraska in the Big 10 Tournament. The Wolverines can score runs in bunches, having plated 444 runs in 63 games this season, an average of a little over seven runs per game. By comparison, UCLA has scored 393 runs in 60 games this season, 6.55 runs per game. Michigan scored 17 runs in the regional clinching game versus Creighton and pounded Nebraska for 18 runs two weeks ago.
Four different players hit 12 home runs for Michigan this year, including first baseman Jordan Brewer, who also leads the Wolverines in batting average (.349) and runs batted in (54). Brewer went 2-4 and had two RBIs against UCLA in the game earlier in the season. Like UCLA, the entire Michigan lineup can put pressure on a pitching staff.
Michigan has a very solid pitching staff as well with a team ERA of 3.55. UM’s three starters this weekend have ERAs of 2.62, 2.82, and 3.61, respectively. If the Wolverines find themselves in a save situation, expect to see Willie Weiss (2-2, 3.08 ERA), who had nine saves on the year.
The Bruins still have not lost a series all season and sport a home record of 31-5. Further, despite Michigan’s very good record, the Big 10 Conference is not considered to be a baseball powerhouse. The Bruins are 2-3 all time versus Michigan, but 2-1 under Head Coach John Savage.
One big question mark for the Bruins is sophomore outfielder Garrett Mitchell. Mitchell missed Monday’s game will an illness. Hopefully, he is healthy enough to play tonight because he is a big part of UCLA’s success out of the lead-off spot.
Although Michigan will present a stiff test for the Bruins, it would still be a surprise in many ways if UCLA was to drop this series against the Wolverines. As such, I expect UCLA to start out on the right foot in the Los Angeles Super Regional tonight with a victory.
This is your UCLA Bruins versus Michigan Wolverines Los Angeles Super Regional Game One open thread.