Gerrit Cole will undoubtedly find himself at the top of June’s Major League Baseball draft.
Now, he just needs to return to the top of the game.
The supremely talented junior right-hander ““ who has been an ace for UCLA the past two seasons and will be selected higher than just about anyone else in the upcoming draft ““ is in a bit of a rough patch. Accordingly, the Bruins have lost in each of his last three starts.
Not that his coach has any plans to change anything.
“He’s going to be our go-to guy on Fridays,” John Savage said. “Pitchers go in ruts just like hitters. He needs to come out of it and pitch well. We have a lot of faith and trust in him.”
Cole will take the ball again on Friday when UCLA (24-16, 11-7 Pac-10) opens its series on the road against Oregon (23-20, 5-10).
The Bruins will be looking to recover on a number of fronts; they lost their most recent weekend series to Oregon State, an unsuccessful stretch of games that saw UCLA get a no-hit in its 2-0 loss on Saturday.
The tilt with Oregon will also give the Bruins a chance to rediscover their road success, something that eluded them two weekends ago at Stanford.
Regardless of Oregon’s record ““ the Ducks are currently in eighth place in the conference ““ UCLA expects to be in for all it can handle.
“The Pac-10 is tough,” Cole said. “There have been a lot of tight ballgames, and it’s just about finishing and grinding and taking blows and dealing blows back.”
Having lost four of their past six conference games, the Bruins have dropped into a third-place tie with California in the Pac-10 standings. They trail Arizona State by two games and Oregon State by two-and-a-half games.
“This series is going to be a challenge, just like all the others,” freshman pitcher Zack Weiss said. “Records are what they are, but Oregon’s going to fight us just as hard as anybody else.”
One funky element of playing at Oregon is that the Ducks’ Eugene stadium features AstroTurf, a surface that the Bruins played on at Washington State but which still presents a bit of a different look.
In preparing for its trip to Pullman, Wash., UCLA practiced fielding groundballs on Spaulding Field, the football team’s practice facility. Expect more of the same with the trip to Oregon.
The Ducks, for their part, are coming off of a victory over their in-state rival Oregon State on Tuesday.
If anything, this weekend series promises to be low-scoring ““ UCLA and Oregon are No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the conference in team earned run average.
“They have tremendous pitching,” Savage said. “Our guys are going to have to put together good consistent at-bats in order to have success.”
With reports from Sam Strong, Bruin Sports senior staff.