After losing a series to California last weekend, coach John Savage addressed his team and told them they needed to become a completely different team.
UCLA baseball has scored 39 runs in four games since that weekend, won a series over No. 2-ranked Stanford and now sits at the top of the Pac-12 with an 8-4 conference record.
The No. 17 Bruins (19-8) will travel to unranked Long Beach State (12-10, 1-2 Big West) on Tuesday, getting a break from conference play. Though the Dirtbags are eight games below .500, they boast the country’s sixth toughest schedule on the West Coast and have four wins against top-10 teams.
Long Beach is ranked 144th in RPI and 41st in strength of schedule alone, while UCLA is 30th and 96th, respectively.
“Long Beach has had a monster schedule. I mean we’re talking about the probably best schedule in the country,” Savage said. “They made the super regional last year and they’re very capable.”
Long Beach State is a familiar opponent for UCLA. The schools have met 10 times since 2014, with the Bruins winning six of those meetings.
“They’re a good team. They’re not in the rankings but it doesn’t matter,” said freshman center fielder Garrett Mitchell. “You’ve got to treat everyone the same and you still have to pitch good and keep competing offensively as well.”
The Dirtbags are 2-5 against teams in the top-25 RPI rankings, a measure of a team’s strength of schedule that accounts for wins and losses.
“They’ve had a really tough schedule in the first half of the season. I mean you saw them play (No. 5) Ole Miss, and traveled to some really good places,” said junior pitcher Jon Olsen. “They’re going to be ready to play and we gotta bring it on Tuesday.”
UCLA has all its starting pitchers available this week, leaving Savage with an embarrassment of riches for the Tuesday spot. In the wake of injuries to the pitching staff, freshman Zach Pettway and sophomores Kyle Mora, Jack Ralston and Ryan Garcia all had opportunities to start.
“That’s the positive (of the injuries). When guys go down other guys have to step up,” Savage said. “It’s night and day. It just adds to our depth. Garcia flashed in front of me, Mora flashed in front of me.”
Long Beach State will start freshman southpaw Adam Seminaris who has started in six games, posting a 4.50 ERA. Savage expects to start Ralston, who has appeared in four games—three for starts—with a 6.10 ERA.
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Blair Field in Long Beach, California.