The Bruins are riding a seven-game winning streak on the weekends, but their Tuesday problem remains unsolved.
No. 9 UCLA baseball (25-10, 14-4 Pac-12) will host Cal State Fullerton (19-19, 12-8 Big West) after dropping its last two Tuesday games – 8-1 to UC Irvine and 5-2 to Long Beach State. The Bruins started the season 4-0 on Tuesdays, including a 12-2 road win over Fullerton on Feb. 27.
Coach John Savage changed the lineup drastically a few weeks ago, after UCLA lost a weekend series to Cal. Sophomore left fielder Jeremy Ydens was moved up to the leadoff spot, freshman shortstop Kevin Kendall pushed sophomore Ryan Kreidler to third and junior center fielder Daniel Amaral was knocked down to the six hole.
Since then, the Bruins’ lineup has remained relatively constant, and Savage said that at this point in the season, it’s time to start solidifying his team.
“There’s no experimenting going on,” Savage said. “We talk about April, May and June being the go-to times in college baseball, so you’ve got to have matchups, you’ve got to have depth, you’ve got to have certain reasons why you do things.”
The Bruins’ three catchers – redshirt junior Daniel Rosica, sophomore Will McInerny and redshirt freshman Ty Haselman – have combined for a .542 on-base percentage over UCLA’s last seven games. The three backstops have been splitting time this season, with Rosica and McInerny getting the bulk of the starts, but Savage said he still doesn’t want to lock in an everyday catcher.
“Rosica is playing really good,” Savage said. “But at the end of the day, we know we have three good catchers, there’s plenty of depth there.”
Rosica started two of the three games against USC over the weekend, finishing the series 3-for-6 with three walks and 3 RBIs. The redshirt junior said he has enjoyed getting more time behind the plate, and that it has helped him develop his chemistry with the pitching staff.
“It’s easier to stay connected with the pitchers,” Rosica said. “It’s nice to get a little rhythm going.”
UCLA will also most likely be without its normal Tuesday starting pitcher, sophomore right-hander Ryan Garcia, who threw 93 pitches two days ago against USC. Savage and the medical staff also shut down junior right-hander Jon Olsen and redshirt sophomore right-hander Kyle Molnar after they returned from Utah last week. Garcia pitched with seven runs of support Sunday, but he said whoever takes the mound Tuesday needs to produce, regardless of depth and offensive support.
“Pitching is pitching, and it doesn’t really matter what the setting is,” Garcia said. “Just be yourself and just go after them.”
UCLA has not announced its starter for the upcoming game.
The Bruins and Titans get started at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.