Weekend in Preview: Feb. 14
(Alice Naland/Daily Bruin staff)
Will Foote, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins are set to play their first official game of the decade.
“The script has not been written,” said coach John Savage. “We like our talent and our depth. It’s just a matter of going out and playing somebody else as a true measuring stick of where we’re at. That’s what we’re about to do this weekend.”
No. 14 UCLA baseball will host UC Riverside in a three-game set which begins Friday, with a familiar face on the mound – junior right-hander Zach Pettway – to begin the season for the Bruins. Sophomore right-hander Nick Nastrini will pitch game two Saturday.
“We have a lot of pitchers back,” Savage said. “We lost three significant pitchers with (then-redshirt senior Nathan Hadley), (then-junior right-hander Ryan Garcia) and (then-redshirt-junior Jack Ralston), but we feel like we’ve closed that gap with incoming guys and guys that are a year older.”
Pettway was also the Bruins’ 2019 opening day starter, going on to make 10 starts to the tune of a 2-2 record and a 4.55 ERA before a forearm strain kept him sidelined the last three months of the season.
Nastrini started four games for the Bruins last year and came out of the bullpen in another, notching a 1.37 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 19 2/3 innings pitched. Nastrini started the final game of the Bruins’ 2019 season – a winner-take-all third game against Michigan in the NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional – allowing two runs and striking out four in the no-decision effort.
Game one starts Friday at 6 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium, followed by games two and three at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday, respectively.
Nicolas Edgar, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins are headed into a showdown with the reigning national champions.
No. 16 UCLA men’s (4-2) tennis will face off against No. 4 Texas (5-1) in the first round of the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday.
Texas, last year’s national champion following a 29-3 regular season record, has won five of six regular season matches and will be the highest-ranked team the Bruins have faced this year. Texas knocked off the then-defending national champions Wake Forest in last year’s NCAA championship match, 4-1.
Coach Billy Martin said his team is embracing the underdog status, as it takes pressure off the team.
“We are really in a position where we don’t have a lot to lose,” Martin said. “I love the underdog status from a coaching standpoint – it makes us looser since it doesn’t happen to us a lot.”
Sophomore Patrick Zahraj, who won his match Tuesday 6-3, 6-2, said not being favored allows for all players to go out and play their best.
“It’s always nice playing as the underdog – we can just get out there and play our best without any extra pressure,” Zahraj said.
UCLA, is coming off a 7-0 victory against Western Michigan on Tuesday, and Martin said the team is familiar with most of Texas’ players.
“We know a lot of their players, some new freshman from Southern California,” Martin said. “We are pretty familiar with their team, which will help us out.”
UCLA’s top singles player, No. 6-ranked junior Keegan Smith, will likely face his toughest opponent of the season so far – the Longhorns’ No. 2-ranked Yuya Ito.
Sophomore Govind Nanda – ranked No. 10 in singles – comes into Friday’s match undefeated in singles dual match play. He will likely duel with No. 13-ranked Christian Sigsgaard.
Match play will begin at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium Friday at 7 a.m.
Track and field
David Deng, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins are at the halfway point of their indoor season.
UCLA track and field will be sending representatives to the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington. This will be the Bruins’ third trip to both destinations this season.
Distance runners redshirt senior Colin Burke and junior Christina Rice will both make their second meet appearance this season at the Husky Classic. Rice and Burke both made their season debuts at the UW Invitational at the end of January, and they both earned times that ranked in the top five of the UCLA indoor record books.
“I think of (the indoor season) as a building block towards (the outdoor season),” Rice said. “In outdoor I want to lower my 10k time a lot – that’s the end goal. Running 5ks indoors is a good segue into 10ks outdoors.”
In Albuquerque, junior sprinter Shae Anderson will make her third meet appearance as a Bruin, competing in the 400-meter dash and the women’s 4×400 relay. Anderson won the 400-meter dash at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge in late January, setting the indoor school record in the process.
Sophomore sprinter Kenroy Higgins is racing in the 60-meter dash this weekend after finishing in first and second place in his first two meets of the year. Higgins’s time of 6.64 seconds at the UW Preview this year is seventh fastest in the country this indoor season.
Junior thrower Alyssa Wilson will be competing again this weekend, taking no weekends off since the start of the indoor season. Nationally, Wilson’s weight throw mark ranks fifth and her shot put ranks seventh.
The Don Kirby Invitational is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday and 8:30 a.m. on Friday, and the Husky Classic is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start time on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Swim and dive
Ethan Cruz, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins are set to battle it out in their last home meet of the season against their crosstown rival.
No. 32 UCLA swim and dive (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) will host crosstown rival No. 8 USC (4-3, 4-2) at the Spieker Aquatics Center on Friday, with the platform portion of the meet set to take place on Saturday.
Both teams have the same conference record, with each of their two losses coming at the hands of Stanford and Cal. The matchup against the Trojans will also double as the team’s Senior Day, which coach Jordan Wolfrum said adds a level of excitement to the meet.
“It’s got all the makings of a meet that is going to be a whole lot of fun,” Wolfrum said. “It’s our final dual meet. After this, it’s just championships (against) our crosstown rival. We’re very tightly matched up – it’s going to be an incredibly fast meet, and it’s going to be a really good traditional rivalry.”
After dropping two meets to rivals Stanford and California two weeks ago, Wolfrum spoke about how the Bruins will take what they have learned and make changes in this weekend’s meet.
“We had some excellent performances there,” Wolfrum said. “Even though it wasn’t a victory, it was against the two of the best teams in the country and we swam some of our best races of the year, so our job is to come in and pour our hearts, minds, and souls into this meet and swim and dive our butts off.”
The Bruins’ matchup against the Trojans will begin at 12:00 p.m. and will have the makings of a traditional rivalry, Wolfrum said.
“It’s all of the good stuff,” Wolfrum said. “It’s a meet that is meaningful to our upperclassmen, to our alumni, and we’re ready to perform and ready to compete.”
Ellie Nowakowski, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins will have a chance to improve this weekend after their worst finish in three years at their season-opening tournament.
UCLA men’s golf will play in the Prestige presented by Charles Schwab at the PGA West Greg Norman Golf Course in La Quinta, California Monday through Wednesday. The Bruins will compete against 15 other schools in the tournament.
UCLA placed seventh in its first tournament of the season on Jan. 27 and 28 behind Pepperdine, Stanford and LSU – three teams that will also compete in the Prestige this week.
Junior Eddy Lai said the team used the seventh place finish as motivation in the past few weeks of practice.
“Our coaches did a pretty good job with putting us in uncomfortable positions during practice,” Lai said. “Doing stuff that we don’t really like, but that ultimately we know is better for us, so I think that we’re a lot more ready (for) this event.”
The starting five next week will be juniors Devon Bling and Lai, senior Hidetoshi Yoshihara, sophomore Bryan Wiyang Teoh and freshman Tony Hendricks. Last week, Hendricks placed third in the Providence Seabeggar Invitational as an individual.
Lai said he has seen each individual player do his part to strengthen his game in preparation for the tournament.
“Everybody’s figuring their own games out right now,” Lai said. “Even on the weekdays, we go up to Valencia and practice whenever we have time, we practice. Ultimately, it should be good. We’re all feeling pretty good. That’s all you can ask for going into a tournament.”