Thursday, April 19

Baseball to rematch UCI

After suffering early season loss to the Anteaters, Bruins hope to build upon season's growth in tonight's matchup

The last time the UCLA baseball team faced UC Irvine was during the Houston College Classic in its second weekend of the season. At that time, the Bruins were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, suffering from a lack of offense and an inability to follow through in the clutch.

Tonight, the pretenses are different.

UCLA enters this evening’s contest with more aggressive bats and consistent starting pitching, which have helped it improve its winning percentage and sync its defensive play.

The Bruins are, thus far, 5-4 in Pac-10 play and hold an overall record of 11-17. In their game versus No. 5 UC Irvine (19-8, 5-1 Big West) at Jackie Robinson Stadium, UCLA hopes to continue making strides in improving its execution, especially in light of the tough schedule that coach John Savage has built for it.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Savage said of the games ahead. “Every game is so critical and we have our RPI to consider.”

Scheduling competitive teams in the season line-up plays an important role in determining the Rating Percentage Index, and therefore a team’s postseason seed.

UC Irvine is the epitome of the high level of competition UCLA has been confronted with throughout the course of the season. The Bruins have played against six of Baseball America’s current Top 25 so far this season, and there are more match-ups in sight.

UC Irvine just won its weekend series 2-1 at Cal State Fullerton, another one of college baseball’s highly touted programs.

Taking the mound for the Bruins in his second start of the season is junior right-hander Garett Claypool. Claypool has commanded a strong presence when entering a game from the bullpen, as he is used most as a reliever on the UCLA pitching staff. He boasts a 1.86 ERA, and will oppose ‘Eater sophomore right-hander Cory Hamilton.

Claypool may see more starts as the season progresses, especially in light of sophomore left-hander Matt Grace’s injury, which he suffered during the second inning of last Tuesday’s contest versus Loyola Marymount while attempting to throw to first base. Claypool may be granted the opportunity to fill the void left by Grace in the mid-week slot.

Despite the oscillating scoring trends that have typified the great part of the Bruins’ season thus far, pitching has remained steadily consistent.

While UCLA lost its first two games in the Evergreen state versus Washington State over the weekend before claiming the concluding contest, the Bruins’ strong showings by freshmen pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer highlight the consistency the pitching staff has displayed throughout the season. The success of the youth in the pitching rotation has kept Bruin hopes alive after the disappointing start.

“There are no better tandem of young pitchers in college baseball,” Savage said. “They’re going out and coming up big for us.”

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