The two best offenses in the Pac-12 will go head to head in Tucson, Arizona, this weekend.
No. 7 UCLA baseball (30-10, 14-4 Pac-12) will take on Arizona (25-17, 7-11) in a three-game series starting Thursday night. The Bruins lead the conference with 301 runs in 2018, good for 7.5 runs per game, while the Wildcats are one spot behind with 286 runs.
UCLA is riding an eight-game winning streak, its longest of the year. The Bruins have also completed three straight weekend sweeps, including a seven-game winning streak in conference play.
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Jack Ralston has started the last two Tuesday games for UCLA, but has still been available out of the bullpen on the weekends. The righty said that his team has settled in over the past few weeks and that it’s starting to get used to its winning ways.
“Everyone just feels comfortable,” Ralston said. “Everyone wants to be here everyday, and they just love the feeling of winning.”
Arizona, on the other hand, is still recovering from a cold streak in conference play. The Wildcats are riding a two-game winning streak, but have still lost six of their last eight Pac-12 matchups.
Despite its recent struggles, coach John Savage said he still expects Arizona to be on the attack offensively.
“Arizona’s a very good team. They have one of the best –(outfielder Alfonso) Rivas – premiere hitters in the country,” Savage said. “We expect a challenge, and a good opportunity for our team.”
Rivas was on the All-Pac-12 first team and All-American second team in 2017, batting .371 with 63 RBIs. His average has dipped to .361 this season, but he still ranks in the top 10 in the conference in hits, RBIs, triples and batting average.
Junior outfielder Jake Pries came into this year with a .217 career batting average, 22 hits and seven RBIs. He has played in 32 games this year as both an outfielder and designated hitter, and already has 24 hits and 11 RBIs to go along with his .300 batting average.
The junior has experience playing the Wildcats over the past two years, and he said that the Bruins’ familiarity with them could lead to an entertaining weekend.
“They have some returners that we know, that we’ve looked at and that we’ve played against in the summer and last year,” Pries said. “We’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us, so it should be a good series for sure.”
The Bruins will be without junior pitcher Jon Olsen, who will be undergoing a procedure on his elbow next week. Savage said he expects Olsen to miss the rest of the season.
Savage will be sticking with his rotation from the past three weekends, with senior sinkerballer Jake Bird pitching Thursday, freshman right-hander Zach Pettway going Friday and sophomore pitcher Ryan Garcia taking the mound Saturday. The three have combined for a 2.22 ERA and 17-3 record this season.
UCLA and Arizona face off Thursday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.