The Bruins and the Matadors have some unfinished business to attend to.
No. 18 UCLA baseball (31-16, 15-9 Pac-12) will take on CSUN (24-26, 12-9 Big West) in a doubleheader Tuesday, first wrapping up the final innings of their incomplete March 14 matchup before starting game two right after. The Bruins were ahead 3-2 in the eighth inning before the game was suspended because of rain.
UCLA has more on its plate than the season series with CSUN, however. The Bruins are coming off back-to-back weekend series losses, and coach John Savage said he is well aware of the implications of such a stretch this late in the season.
“When you lose five out of the last six, you know what direction you’re going,” Savage said.
Savage’s squad is also 2-3 in its recent five midweek games, after starting the season 4-0. The Bruins will be coming home Tuesday for the first of a four-game homestand after playing 10 of their 11 recent games on the road.
UCLA will hold a late 1-run lead against CSUN when the first pitch is thrown Tuesday, but Savage said he won’t underestimate a Matadors team that is 7-2 in its recent nine games.
“CSUN is good,” Savage said. “Everybody looks good right now.”
The Bruins allowed 5.4 runs per game since their eight-game winning streak was snapped by Arizona, well above the 3.5 per game they had been allowing on the year before that series.
Sophomore right-hander Ryan Garcia, who got the loss in Sunday’s game against Washington, was UCLA’s Tuesday starter earlier in the season. With injuries to junior right-hander Jon Olsen, redshirt sophomore right-hander Kyle Molnar and junior southpaw Justin Hooper, Garcia has moved into the Sunday slot, leaving the Tuesday role to redshirt sophomore right-hander Jack Ralston.
Garcia said that while the Bruins’ staff has struggled lately amid the injuries and losing streaks, he still has faith in his teammates to get some momentum back this week.
“I’m very confident in our pitching staff and bullpen,” Garcia said. “We have a saying that the starter goes out there does his job, and then we pass the baton to the bullpen, and they continue to get it done. That’s just confidence in our pitching.”
In Garcia’s place, Ralston has a 4.61 ERA in his Tuesday starts.
The recent losing spell has left the Bruins tied for third place in the conference standings. Sophomore center fielder and leadoff hitter Jeremy Ydens, who is hitting .356 on the year, said gaining ground in conference standings is important, but it all starts with the midweek matchups this week.
“That’s a big couple games for us Tuesday,” Ydens said. “Going into the Oregon series, (we) want to get some confidence going, want to get the bats going so we’ll be ready to go.”
The second game of the doubleheader – and the Bruins’ final midweek game of the year – will start at 6 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Game one will begin right before, at 4:30 p.m., with UCLA up to bat in the top of the eighth.