Saturday, April 20

No. 3 UCLA baseball to battle Oregon State


Members of the UCLA baseball team celebrate the Bruins' walk-off win over Stanford last Thursday night. After taking their opening Pac-10 series against the Cardinal, the Bruins hit the road for the first time in conference play as they travel to Corvallis, Ore. to face Oregon State, a team that won the NCAA title in 2006 and 2007.

Members of the UCLA baseball team celebrate the Bruins' walk-off win over Stanford last Thursday night. After taking their opening Pac-10 series against the Cardinal, the Bruins hit the road for the first time in conference play as they travel to Corvallis, Ore. to face Oregon State, a team that won the NCAA title in 2006 and 2007. Kimberly Lajcik


By winning its first 22 games, the UCLA baseball team smacked around opponents from all over the country.

To solidify itself as a championship contender, the team will have to survive the minefield that is the Pac-10, the conference that is the most storied collection of teams in the land. And it is not even that close.

After taking two out of three from Stanford at home over the weekend, the No. 3 Bruins (23-2, 2-1 Pac-10) will take to the road for the first time in conference play. They will begin a three-game series today against Oregon State, a team that won the national championship in 2006 and 2007.

Those two titles are the most recent for the Pac-10, which as a conference has won 26 of the 63 championships awarded in college baseball. The Big-12, by comparison, is second with 10 titles.

“In the Pac-10, we know it’s going to be tough this year,” UCLA junior shortstop Niko Gallego said after the Stanford series. “The feeling that you get when you can take a series in the Pac-10, it’s a better feeling.”

The No. 17 Beavers (19-6, 2-1) returned to the postseason a year ago after a brief hiatus following their back-to-back championships. Both Oregon State and UCLA are looking up to another Pac-10 team, Arizona State, which currently holds the nation’s top ranking.

To succeed at their goal of winning Pac-10 series, UCLA will have to accomplish something it hasn’t done since 2004: take two out of three in Corvallis, Ore.

“Oregon State has a great facility. It holds around 3,000 and is a first-class facility,” said coach John Savage about playing at the Beavers’ Goss Stadium. “It’s a program that has been built on winning at home. It’s a program that has had a ton of success the last several years.”

The Bruins will also use the weekend as an opportunity to right the ship after suffering a stinging loss to Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday. The Titans, who traditionally have given UCLA trouble, jumped on starter Garett Claypool for five runs in the first inning and held the Bruin bats in check in coasting to a 6-1 victory.

After a loss to Stanford on Friday night ended its winning streak, UCLA responded with a victory one day later. Savage will look for more of the same this weekend.

“We have to bounce back just like we did with that first loss against Stanford last Saturday,” he said. “We can’t let (Tuesday) carry over. We have to turn the page and get after it this weekend.”

The formula for success thus far for the Bruins has been dominant starting pitching and a balanced hitting attack that has generally exceeded expectations and caught some teams off-guard. Things are a little different in the Pac-10, where the year-in, year-out match-ups breed a heightened level of familiarity.

“The talent across the board in the Pac-10 is a big deal,” said UCLA starting pitcher Rob Rasmussen, who is slated to start Sunday’s series finale. “Also the familiarity: we’re familiar with their hitters, they’re familiar with our pitchers, coaches are familiar with each other. You play them every year, you get to know their coaches and players.”

With reports from Blair Angulo, Bruin Sports senior staff.

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