BASEBALL

Long Beach State
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Long Beach
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It isn’t your average week.

Baseball, more so than perhaps any other sport, relies heavily on routine. Same pre-game rituals, same lineups, same idiosyncrasies.

Once the college baseball season hits April, life gets pretty simple for UCLA: a Pac-10 series on the weekends and a matchup with a nonconference Southern California team each Tuesday.

Once in a blue-and-gold moon, though, there’s a change-up. This week, the Bruins (27-16) will play five games, none of them against a conference opponent.

They travel to face Long Beach State tonight before returning home for a rare Wednesday night matchup with UC Santa Barbara and a weekend series with Cal State Bakersfield.

In some ways, the week will represent a brief respite from the rigors of Pac-10 play. But UCLA, seeking to maximize its postseason resume, has to gobble up the wins it can.

“We’ve still got to play the game the way we know how to play,” sophomore third baseman Cody Regis said. “We can’t just take the week off because it’s nonconference.”

Long Beach State, for one, is a traditionally strong program that has long been a feisty Tuesday rival of the Bruins. The Dirtbags (23-22) might be loathe to see another Pac-10 team ““ they’re coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of Arizona State during which they yielded 32 runs in three games.

UCLA and Long Beach State have met once already this season, with the Bruins surviving a late rally for a 6-4 win in Westwood.

Having games on back-to-back nights will present some different looks for the pitching staff. That problem is diminished, however, because of how well the Bruins pitched over the weekend at Oregon.

Thanks to the complete games turned in by junior Trevor Bauer and freshman Adam Plutko, and seven and one-third strong innings from junior Gerrit Cole, the bullpen essentially had the weekend off.

Freshman Zack Weiss will start against the Dirtbags, with sophomore Scott Griggs slated to go on Wednesday. The weekend rotation will remain the same.

“We’re going to throw a lot of guys on Tuesday and Wednesday,” coach John Savage said. “We have a lot of innings this week. We’re going to use that bullpen. They haven’t pitched much.”

Playing so many consecutive games against nonconference foes could help UCLA further build an avalanche of momentum as it rolls into the backstretch of Pac-10 play, which will see the Bruins play weekend series with top programs Cal and Arizona State.

In finishing off the sweep of Oregon, UCLA is now on a season-best five-game winning streak. Taking care of business during this rarest of weeks could push that number to double digits by the time mighty Cal State Fullerton rolls into town next Tuesday.

“We’re battling,” Savage said. “I think you’d have to say that we’re playing good baseball at the right time.”