The Bruins are running out of time to get their season back on track.
With just six games left to play in the regular season, No. 18 UCLA baseball (32-17, 15-9 Pac-12) will face off against Oregon (25-24, 11-13) in a weekend series at home. The Bruins have lost five of their last six conference games, and have dropped 11 spots in the national rankings over the past two weeks.
With the recent freefall in the polls, UCLA is no longer expected to host a regional in the postseason. Coach John Savage said he was well aware of the implications of his team’s cold streak, but hopes that the UCLA’s 15-2 victory over CSUN can get them back into the swing of things.
“Confidence is fragile – this game is fragile,” Savage said. “Look at big-league teams – some of those teams are just in ruts. … Hopefully this game gets us back into the groove.”
The Bruins aren’t alone in feeling the late-season pressure, however. The Ducks are firmly on the bubble, and without a strong finish to their season, they may be left out of the field of 64 altogether. They are coming off a sweep against Utah in which they outscored the last-place Utes 23-6.
Sophomore left fielder Jeremy Ydens, who is second on the team with a .354 batting average, said he and his teammates know what Oregon has on the line and how that could affect the series’ atmosphere.
“Oregon’s a good team,” Ydens said. “They’re fighting for their lives in the tournament, and we’ll be ready to go.”
UCLA will roll out senior sinkerballer Jake Bird for the opener, and will turn to freshman right-hander Zach Pettway on Saturday and sophomore right-hander Ryan Garcia in the finale. The three starters have combined for a 2.76 ERA this season, leading the charge for the conference’s No. 2 team on the ERA leaderboard.
The Ducks, on the other hand, boast a .241 team batting average, last in the conference. They have one player batting over .300, while the Bruins have four. Oregon also has 24 home run, compared to UCLA’s 38.
The Bruins are back at home this weekend, where they hold a 10-2 record in conference play. On the road, they are 7-5.
“It’s huge to be at home and get back on a routine,” said sophomore third baseman Ryan Kreidler. “We’re able to come practice on Thursday on our home field and lift and kind of get back to the swing of things here.”
Kreidler owns the lowest batting average of UCLA’s regular starters with a .211 mark, but he is fourth on the team in RBIs with 30. The shortstop-turned-third-baseman had a team-high 5 RBIs Tuesday night.
UCLA is a game and a half behind No. 2 Oregon State and a full three games behind No. 3 Stanford, which holds the top spot, with just two weekends left in the season. While the Bruins have topped their win total from last year – when they made the tournament as a low-seeded at-large – Savage said that these last few weeks will be very important for his team.
“It’s a big matchup; we’re still playing for positioning in the Pac-12,” Savage said. “There’s still six games left in this conference, and you talk about six out of 30 – that’s a decent chunk. We gotta make sure we come out and play our style (of) baseball.”
Game one starts at 4 p.m. Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium, with Bird taking the mound for the Bruins, a chance for him to notch his seventh win of the year.