UCLA to host Japan team
By Ryan Eshoff
March 1, 2010 8:33 pm
In the midst of a six-game winning streak to begin its season, the UCLA baseball team will host Japan’s Waseda University in an exhibition to be played today at Jackie Robinson Stadium at 5 p.m.
The game was intended to be the second in a series of exhibitions to be played against members of the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League ““ widely considered the most elite baseball organization in Japan outside of its professional league ““ but last season’s scheduled contest against Keio University was canceled because of rain.
The quality of the league was on display last week at Dedeaux Field, the home of the USC Trojans, where fellow Big6 member Rikkyo University defeated its American hosts 9-0.
Waseda’s baseball program is one of the most storied in all of Japan, having won 39 league championships since its inception in 1901, the most recent coming in the fall of 2008.
From UCLA’s standpoint, the exhibition matchup could be used as a chance to showcase some of its depth against elite international opponents in a less competitive environment. Bruins’ coach John Savage has firmly stated that his lineup is not set in stone, and the variety of different lineup cards he has submitted thus far attests to that.
“We have two first basemen, two third basemen, a couple catchers. We have a lot of depth,” Savage said. “It’s all about guys taking to their roles, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
The juggling of offensive personnel hasn’t affected the strength of the UCLA bats yet: Before Sunday’s game against USC, the Bruins had scored 59 runs through just five matches. And although UCLA was able to pull away from the Trojans with a three-run eighth, the game was close until that point.
“We’re jumping on teams early,” said junior shortstop Niko Gallego, who homered on Sunday. “It was great to be in a game like that (against USC).”
Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of UCLA’s depth was displayed when senior and usual starter Justin Uribe came off of the bench against USC and ended up delivering the go-ahead hit in the seventh. Uribe acknowledged that the depth and versatility of the lineup is a strength that the Bruins need to capitalize on in order to stay successful.
“We have guys at every position that are ready to play,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing this just because it keeps working. Guys that maybe don’t play one game hop in the next game and it’s like they never missed a beat.”
Against Waseda, the UCLA bats will be backing senior right-hander Garett Claypool, who will be making his second start of the season. Claypool went seven strong innings to pick up the victory versus Long Beach State last Tuesday.
Compiled by Ryan Eshoff, Bruin Sports senior staff.