Sam Connon, assistant Sports editor
The Bruins’ first test in 2019 will be a big one.
No. 5 UCLA baseball will open its season at home against St. John’s on Friday with sophomore right-hander Zach Pettway taking the mound for the Bruins. Pettway was projected to be coach John Savage’s No. 2 starter before junior right-hander Ryan Garcia was shut down for 10 days with flexor inflammation.
“We’re faced with an opportunity right now to throw some different guys,” Savage said. “Everybody’s role gets moved up a little bit.”
Pettway posted a 3.35 ERA and 8-4 record in 2018, earning him a Freshman All-American nod.
With Pettway sliding up to Friday, redshirt junior right-hander Jack Ralston will start Saturday and freshman right-hander Jesse Bergin will take the mound in the series finale Sunday. Ralston tossed 36 1/3 innings last season en route to a 6.44 ERA.
St. John’s was the 2018 Big East champion, and its pitching staff was able to record the fifth-best ERA in the country last season with a 3.08 mark – just one spot ahead of UCLA. Junior second baseman Chase Strumpf said the Red Storm are a talented team and will be a good test for the Bruins at the start of the 2019 campaign.
“Scrimmages are really good for us, but obviously this is where we really want to play against another team,” Strumpf said. “I know a lot about St. John’s, not their players in specific, but I know they had a really good year last year.”
First pitch will be at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. starts Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Women’s water polo
Marcus Veal, Daily Bruin reporter
Bruins and Anteaters. Round three.
No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (13-1) will have the opportunity to hold a 3-0 head-to-head lead over No. 7 UC Irvine (5-3) when the Bruins host the Anteaters on Saturday.
“We know that (UCI) is a really good team,” said coach Adam Wright. “Obviously, playing them three times in the first five or six weeks of the season is a challenge. (However,) we absolutely expect that it’s going to be a difficult game and we want it to be that way.”
UCLA and UCI squared off in the first weekend of competition for both teams at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational.
Junior attacker Maddie Musselman and freshman attacker Val Ayala scored four and three goals, respectively, and led UCLA to the 10-6 win.
Round two was the Triton Invitational and the Bruins saw a nearly identical outcome.
The Anteaters had two goals entering half time, they netted six goals before the final whistle and Ayala had a hat trick – just like the first meeting. UCLA scored one more goal than the first matchup and bested UCI 11-6.
In order for the Bruins to get their third win against the Anteaters this season, Wright said UCLA needs to play defense without forcing exclusions.
In the first two matchups, UCI earned 16 man-up opportunities and converted on seven of them.
“We did a nice job against them last weekend on that side of the ball,” Wright said. “They play a very fast-paced game and if we don’t have great awareness, we’re going to be playing a lot of man down, so for us, the big area that we need to focus on is our commitment to great defense.”
Swim and dive
Robert J. Nevarez, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins face their final test of the regular season this weekend.
No. 25 UCLA swim and dive (8-2, 4-2 Pac-12) will square off against its crosstown rival No. 15 USC (6-2, 4-2) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Friday and Saturday.
Both the Bruins and the Trojans are coming off hard-fought losses in the Bay Area to No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Berkeley two weeks ago.
These were the first two casualties of the season for both programs.
“We lost a lot of really close races, but losing to national champions and Olympians is nothing to be ashamed of,” said coach Cyndi Gallagher. “I want to see them dig deep and that’s definitely easier for them to do since they’re facing their rival.”
Historically, the Trojans boast a 27-16-1 series advantage, currently holding an 11-meet win streak over the Bruins that dates back to 2008. The 2018 meet ended in a tie.
“Last year’s tie was a huge moral victory for us,” Gallagher said. “We can beat them if we just ignore the score and focus on being better than we were last week.”
Nevertheless, Gallagher said the Bruins remain excited and eager for the upcoming meet, hoping to snap their winless drought and reclaim citywide bragging rights.
“They’re swimming with enthusiasm and are enjoying the competition and each other,” Gallagher said. “They’re definitely not afraid or intimidated.”