Bruin baseball to pick up its game

Still chasing the postseason, UCLA steps up against Long Beach State tonight after loss to California

UCLA baseball coach John Savage and the Bruins have just eight regular season games left to earn a postseason berth.

UCLA baseball coach John Savage and the Bruins have just eight regular season games left to earn a postseason berth. Michael Chen

One by one, players exited the UCLA baseball team’s clubhouse with the same discouraged look on Sunday.

After a disappointing conference series loss ““ the Bruins’ first in a month ““ players and coaches alike had reason to be upset.

UCLA wasted an opportunity to improve its postseason chances by dropping a home series to California, the ninth-place team in the Pac-10 standings.

Now, the Bruins have some serious work to do, and they know it.

“We don’t feel comfortable,” coach John Savage said. “We don’t feel like we’re in the perfect place. Our backs are up against the wall, that’s for sure.”

Following tonight’s contest against Long Beach State at Jackie Robinson Stadium, the Bruins (24-24) have just seven games remaining ““ all against teams ranked in Baseball America’s top five. UCLA will play one midweek game against No. 1 UC Irvine, and three each against No. 3 Arizona State and No. 5 Cal State Fullerton.

“It’s probably a good thing,” Savage said, referring to his team’s challenging schedule. “We have our hands full, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

Despite out-hitting the Golden Bears over the weekend, the Bruins lost two of three.

UCLA was spurned by the inability to produce in clutch situations.

“We got aggressive in the wrong spots,” senior first baseman Cody Decker said. “Things didn’t work out; that’s just baseball.”

Bruin batters stranded 27 runners in the three games combined.

“It was a couple of sloppy plays here and there,” Decker said. “A few bad things happened at the wrong time. We just didn’t come back from it the way we should have.”

Timely hitting is one facet the Bruins hope to improve tonight against the 49ers (24-23).

“It’s a big game,” Decker said. “We need to go ahead and take care of it.”

UCLA did take care of Long Beach State earlier this season, winning 7-5 behind junior pitcher Garett Claypool’s strong outing. Claypool, who is slated to start tonight’s game, surrendered just one hit and struck out seven batters over six scoreless innings back on April 28 at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

“We’ve got to come out and take care of business (tonight),” Savage said. “We knew (our postseason hope) was going to come down to the last 12 games or so. Now we know that we’ve got to take care of business every time we play.”

UCLA possesses a balanced record and currently sits in third place in the conference standings, 3.5 games behind first-place Arizona State and a game behind second-place Washington State.

Regardless of their position, the Bruins are aware that they can’t have the same look they had following Sunday’s defeat.

“(The season) is not over with,” Savage said.

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