Sunday, November 18

Baseball aims to improve RPI in road matchup with Cal State Fullerton


Coach John Savage will call on sophomore lefty Justin Hooper to start Tuesday's game. Savage said Hooper was inconsistent last time out, when he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched.  (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)

Coach John Savage will call on sophomore lefty Justin Hooper to start Tuesday's game. Savage said Hooper was inconsistent last time out, when he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)


UCLA baseball is in the middle of a seven-game road stretch.

But at this point in the season, that’s a good thing.

“RPI-wise it’s what we want,” said coach John Savage. “We want to play on the road this time of year.”

After a three-game road sweep of the USC Trojans over the weekend, the Bruins have moved up from 63rd to 52nd in RPI, a ranking formula that measures strength of schedule and gives more weight to road wins than home wins.

[Related: UCLA baseball defeats Cal State Fullerton 9-7 with an eight-run inning]

 

UCLA (24-20, 13-8 Pac-12) could improve its RPI again Tuesday when it takes on No. 15 Cal State Fullerton (28-16, 10-5 Big West) in a nonconference bout. The Bruins defeated the Titans 9-7 in their first matchup March 28.

Although UCLA lost its first four true away games of the season, the team has rebounded, winning eight of its previous 10 on the road.

The Bruins have allowed 2.8 runs in road games since conference play began, about a run lower than their season average in runs allowed overall, which is 3.97. They are also hitting .286 on the road since the start of Pac-12 play, compared to their .257 season average.

After sweeping USC, UCLA joined Stanford and Oregon State as the only Pac-12 teams to win each of their first three road series in conference play.

[Related: Baseball shuts out USC to complete series sweep]


“In the beginning, they didn’t prove that they could win on the road,” Savage said. “All of a sudden, you look up and you got three road-series wins in the conference, which is not easy. It goes to show you that they are getting better.”

The Bruins have struggled against Big West teams away from home throughout the past decade.

UCLA is 29-30-1 against clubs in the conference in road games during the regular season since 2007. The squad also lost two of its three postseason series against Big West teams away – each was against Cal State Fullerton.

But this year’s squad has done well against the Big West overall, including three top-25 victories – one against Fullerton and two against No. 10 Long Beach State.

With a victory Tuesday, UCLA could crack the top 50 in RPI for the first time since the beginning of last season. Players said their recent winning stretch – the Bruins have won six of their last eight – will help, but there is still work to be done.

“We’re not done yet,” said senior left fielder Brett Stephens. “We’re still fighting to get in (to the NCAA Tournament), so we’ve gotta get better everyday and keep going. We’re almost there.”

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