In advance of UCLA baseball’s (7-11, 1-2 Pac-12) three-game series against California (9-9, 1-2) this weekend, Daily Bruin Sports talked to Andrew Wild, the assistant Sports editor for the Daily Californian.
Daily Bruin: Take me through how Cal’s season has gone so far this year.
Andrew Wild: They have an incredibly young roster. They graduated or had most of their players drafted. So they’re only returning one starter, and then that guy got hurt in the preseason. So it’s an incredibly young, inexperienced roster.
They’ve had a strange season of looking like they don’t know what they’re doing at some points but then getting big wins over big teams. Last week against Oregon, who I think is a pretty good team, the first game they got blown out, the second game was a pretty ugly loss, and finally they found their match and they had a big Game 3 win.
It’s kind of been like that all season, where it’s a young team that sometimes looks overmatched but gets some impressive, big wins. And they’ve scratched out a decent record.
DB: What’s the weekend rotation like?
AW: Tanner Dodson – he’s a sophomore – he had been the Friday night starter, but he’s also been pulling DH duties because he’s a decent hitter. And he had a really rough outing against Oregon last Friday. He let up five runs in five innings, 10 hits, five walks – really bad. And right after that, the manager talked about pulling from Friday nights, and then he actually did. So Dodson got moved back to Sunday.
And there’s a freshman who hasn’t pitched Friday nights before who’s going to go Friday night. Jared Horn He’s probably the highest profile recruit they brought in this season. He’s not been very good this season at all. He’s got like a 5.30 ERA and he can’t really get guys to swing and miss. But he’s got a good pedigree. Like I said, he’s a pretty high recruit, so I guess they’re hoping that he can do better on Friday night.
On Saturday, they have Joey Matulovich, who’s another sophomore. Complete pitch-to-contact guy. None of these guys can really get swings and misses, but Matulovich is the most assuring pitch-to-contact guy. He’s the one who got the big win over Oregon. He went eight strong with one run.
Cal’s got a decent defense, so when he’s pitching to contact, that works out real well for him.
DB: Who are the offensive threats on the team?
AW: The first thing about this roster is that no one can walk. These guys just don’t take walks. They don’t work deep counts. Everyone has a really strange slash line.
The best hitter is Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. He’s a sophomore outfielder. He’s pretty good. He’s a small guy, but he’s been hitting real well. He’s got two homers on the season. Slugged decently well. He went through the first four weeks of the season without getting a walk, but now he’s got a couple and he’s still hitting .333. He’s probably the best offensive weapon.
Andrew Vaughn is a freshman who has been moving all around the infield and he’s been really, really hot. He doesn’t take any walks either, but like I said, he’s swinging a really hot bat right now.
Other than that, Jonah Davis is another outfielder who has come on more recently. He doesn’t walk much, either, but he’s hitting close to .290 so he’s been doing decent and he’s had some big hits.
And Dodson is that starting pitcher who’s also pulling DH duties a lot of the times. I’m not sure if he’ll be playing DH in this series, but most of the time he has been and he can’t hit for average much, but he’s got a big bat, and he’s slugging about .450. So he’s a threat for big hits.
DB: How’s the bullpen been looking?
AW: The bullpen’s been stronger than the rotation. You have guys who can work more strikeouts than anyone else. Erik Martinez has been the closer, although they’ve mostly done closer by committee. But Erik Martinez has really come in out of the bullpen and been pretty solid.
Zayne Patino’s been really strong. Jack Wolger is a freshman that just made an appearance out of the bullpen and he let up two home runs in like the third inning of his appearance but he looked really good for the first two innings. So I think if he’s only pitching short innings he’ll be really effective.
They’ve got a three-headed bullpen that’s really good with Martinez, Patino and Wolger, now. I think Wolger’s going to get more innings, and they’ve been really, really strong.
DB: What does Cal need to do to win this series against UCLA?
AW: It looks like you guys don’t have – you have your star pitcher and your star hitter, but not too much behind that. So as long as Cal doesn’t get flustered by the stars, they should be – Cal’s got six guys slugging over .400.
But they’ve got a bunch of guys with good slash lines that should take care of the starting pitching behind your first guy, so they can beat up on your pitchers Saturday and Sunday.
If (senior Moises) Ceja doesn’t have a huge game, they should be able to beat up on guys Saturday and Sunday regardless of how they do in Game 1. And hope that the back of their rotation is going to do better than the back of your rotation.
Friday, 6 p.m.
Cal: RHP Jared Horn (1-2, 5.32 ERA)
UCLA: RHP Griffin Canning (0-1, 1.89)
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Cal: RHP Joey Matulovich (3-0, 3.18)
UCLA: RHP Moises Ceja (1-1, 1.69)
Sunday, 2 p.m.
Cal: RHP Tanner Dodson (1-4, 4.67)
UCLA: RHP Jon Olsen (0-1, 5.50)