A hush fell over the crowd at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday as a foul ball sailed over the seats along the right field foul line toward the cars parked beyond. The vacuum of silence morphed into a roar as, moments later, junior outfielder Brian Carroll hit a soft liner into right field, driving in a pair of runs.
But lately for UCLA baseball, those roars have been few and far between, as the Bruins are near the point of posting flyers on light poles in search of their missing offense.
UCLA will try to find its absent offense today as the team travels to UC Irvine to take on a talented Anteaters team.
“We have a challenging week. We’ve got a very good Irvine team on Tuesday on the road and we go to Oregon, so we’ll be tested this week,” said coach John Savage.
UCLA, who moved up four spots in Baseball America’s rankings to No. 13, passed a test over the weekend, winning two out of three against Loyola Marymount, but the team was unsatisfied with the result. After pitching carried the Bruins to wins in the first two games of the series, their lack of hitting caught up to them on Sunday, as they were unable to climb out of a three-run hole.
“It gave us a little sour taste in the mouth just to know that we felt like we didn’t fully finish the job. We got the job done, but didn’t get it done all the way to the extent that we want to,” said junior outfielder Brenton Allen.
Without a consistent offensive attack, UCLA was unable to complete the sweep and could have trouble keeping pace with a UCI (23-9) squad that hits .289 as a team.
While he knows it’s an issue, Savage is hesitant to continue to remind his team of its need to improve its hitting.
“It’s one of those things, the more you talk about it, sometimes the worse it gets. It’s the pink elephant in the room. Tension is the enemy of performance sometimes,” Savage said.
Although the hits haven’t been there, the Bruins believe that will soon change, as they have still had good at bats lately, even if the results don’t show it.
“We’re doing a good job of executing and getting on base. We’re not getting the big hits, which I think we’ll get. I think we’re going to bounce out of it shortly,” said sophomore infielder Kevin Kramer.
“It’s baseball; sometimes you get it done, sometimes you don’t. I think you just keep going and keep up the process, I think we’ll eventually get those hits and get our offense rolling a little bit.”
The Bruins (22-10, 7-5 Pac-12) may be confident that they’ll soon hit their stride at the plate, but their lack of production thus far has forced them to take a realistic look at where they stand in the division.
“If you really want to make a run at the Pac-12, you’ve got to be offensive,” Savage said. “We’re not offensive enough right now to really make a major statement.”
The Bruins need a change and they know it.