This weekend’s series against Stanford showcased one of UCLA baseball’s key weaknesses from this season: offense.
But despite troubles with their bats, the Bruins are positive about their chances going into the postseason.
Even though the team wasn’t its absolute strongest at the plate, it still managed to end up as one of the nation’s top teams.
UCLA finished the regular season in the top 16 and will be hosting a regional this weekend, despite its challenges on offense.
The Bruins have averaged just over four runs a game, as opposed to last year, when they averaged over six.
On an individual level, it’s been clear that they’re struggling – this year, only redshirt freshman Justin Hazard, who played in 14 games and started six, is batting over .300, whereas last year the lineup was riddled with players above that mark.
The decrease in offense could be attributed to the Major League Baseball Draft plucking much of their starting lineup from last year. All the outfield starters and several from the infield were juniors and got picked up by big league squads.
“We have 39 wins, we have 21 wins in conference, so we feel like we’ve had a really good year. Last year’s team went to Omaha and, losing a lot of guys, I think this team has done well. We lost our entire outfield, we lost our catcher, we lost our first baseman, we lost our closer. These guys have played very well for themselves,” said coach John Savage.
Oftentimes, UCLA players attributed their struggles at the plate to putting too much pressure on themselves and said that wins came from just settling into the game. That was true this weekend.
“I think we just took the pressure off ourselves (Sunday). We just sort of got past the pressure and strung some quality at bats together,” said junior first baseman Pat Gallagher. “(We) didn’t try to do too much and we just trusted in the guy behind us to pick us up if we didn’t execute. I think that was different (Sunday) than the last two games.”
But now it’s crunch time for the Bruins to move past those struggles and do better in the first round of the playoffs.
San Diego State, UCLA’s first opponent in the regionals, has proven itself as a strong offensive squad this year.
The Bruins see the playoffs as a chance to get started up again, and, despite any troubles they’ve had this season, they are confident in their chances moving forward.
“We’re all on board, and our main goal is to win a championship and that’s really what everyone is thinking about right now,” said sophomore catcher Shane Zeile. “We just gotta take it one game at a time and I think we have a good shot.”