Sunday, May 31

Baseball looks to recover this weekend in Washington

Coach John Savage looks on after the Bruins' 5-1 loss to Arizona State last Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium, one of four losses during the past two weeks. UCLA visits Washington today through Sunday. Kimberly Lajcik

There is an old belief that true character is measured by how someone recovers from the hits, the punches and the knockdowns.

What’s the reaction after everything appears bleak?

Texan defenders bounced back following the famous Battle of the Alamo, collecting enough grit to defeat the mighty Mexican army just a month later.

Hall of Fame boxer Joe Frazier was dropped by George Foreman six times to lose his undefeated record, then regained top form to win his next heavyweight fight.

The UCLA baseball team was ambushed at Jackie Robinson Stadium last weekend, taking a mean right hook from a powerful Arizona State squad that won the three games by a combined score of 23-5. Then-No. 5 UCLA was blindsided, left dazed and looking for answers before it slipped seven spots in the national rankings.

“We’ve had a very good run and a very good team,” coach John Savage said following the Bruins’ 5-1 win at Pepperdine on Tuesday. “We had a very difficult weekend, but we have to learn from it, move on and make sure we get better.”

After getting off the mat Tuesday, No. 12 UCLA (31-10, 7-8 Pac-10) heads to Washington for a three-game set against the Huskies (25-19, 8-7).

Redemption still lurks in the Bruins’ minds.

“I feel like we’ve handled the situation pretty well this year,” junior shortstop Niko Gallego said. “We play like we’re at home, try to take the crowd out of it, take all the other elements out of it and just play baseball.”

Washington may not be ASU, but after sweeping then-No. 21 Stanford a week ago, the Huskies promise to pack a punch of their own.

“Another challenge in the Pac-10,” Savage said. “Nothing really changes.”

Sophomore infielder Dean Espy, he of the .351 batting average and team-best 33 runs batted in, has been wearing a protective guard on his left shin for about a month.

Sophomore second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla, he of the .354 batting average and team-best 52 hits, played through the pain of a bothersome hip flexor last weekend.

“He really wasn’t 100 percent but he wanted to play,” Savage said.

Though injuries to some key players may cause changes, the Bruins know they are not alone.

“Anyone (on our team) can go in at anytime,” Gallego said. “Every team is battling injuries right now, everyone is pretty banged up. You just have to come out and give it your all ““ it’s all you can ask for.”

Savage, meanwhile, believes his team’s depth allows it to absorb the nicks.

What about bouncing back from last weekend’s losses?

“We have played well on the road this year,” Savage said. “That’s a good sign.”

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