It’s been a month since UCLA baseball took a conference series, but coach John Savage still thinks the Bruins have a shot at defending their conference title.
“I just think everybody would have to believe that the Pac-12 is pretty wide open right now,” Savage said. “The standings can change over one weekend .”
Although there are nine teams ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 standings, the Bruins trail conference-leading Utah by only 3.5 games. UCLA (16-18, 6-9 Pac-12) will get a shot to start climbing the ladder this weekend with a three-game set against Oregon (17-13, 7-5 Pac-12).
The Ducks will send a trio of lefties to the hill to keep their hot streak alive. Oregon has won five straight conference games – including a sweep of USC – behind left-handed starting pitchers Matt Krook (3-1, 3.79 ERA), Cole Irvin (3-3, 4.01 ERA) and David Peterson (3-2, 1.59 ERA), who are scheduled to pitch Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The influx of lefties is good news for freshman Daniel Amaral, who Savage said was likely to get more playing time against left-handed starters. The young outfielder has collected only 20 at-bats this year, registering four of his five hits against lefties.
UCLA will counter with sophomore Griffin Canning (4-4, 3.53 ERA), junior Grant Dyer (1-2, 6.50 ERA) and freshman Kyle Molnar (2-4, 4.09 ERA), who have each made starts – in that order – in all five of UCLA’s conference series this year.
Last time out, Canning put together an outing that earned him Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors, striking out 10 and walking one while firing a complete game.
UCLA has pulled off four walk-off wins this season, but taking the lead in the bottom of the ninth won’t be easy against Oregon.
Ducks closer Stephen Nogosek (1-1, 1.21 ERA) has made seven straight scoreless appearances dating back to March 25, notching four saves in that span. The junior recently made the 60-player midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list by USA Baseball.
Seven of the last nine meetings between the Bruins and Ducks have been decided by a single run, which could play in UCLA’s favor. The Bruins’ 9-2 record in one-run games is responsible for over half of their wins.