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Baseball to open Pac-12 play with empty stadium in weekend series against Oregon

Sophomore third baseman Jake Moberg went 3-for-4 at the plate in UCLA baseball’s 15-3 win over USC on Sunday. Moberg’s three hits against the Trojans was a personal season best, with the sophomore also walking once and driving in one run. (Keaton Larson/Daily Bruin)

By Taiyo Keilin

March 12, 2020 12:50 am

The Bruins will open their Pac-12 season over the weekend in Westwood.

No. 5 UCLA baseball (13-2) will play a three-game series against Oregon (8-7) to kick off its Pac-12 campaign. The Bruins are looking to win back-to-back conference titles for the first time ever, after taking home the crown last season with a 24-5 conference record – their best in program history.

Despite losing 13 players to the 2019 MLB Draft, the Bruins will begin conference play a game better than it did last season; UCLA was 12-3 when they hosted Oregon State in the opening series a year ago.

Coach John Savage’s team has gotten production from new faces in its first 15 games, with redshirt freshman first baseman JT Schwartz and freshman utility Michael Curialle both finishing nonconference action in the top-five on the team in hits – even with the latter missing five games because of injury. Curialle is also tied for second on the team in home runs with two.

Returning Bruins have also played key roles for Savage’s squad, with sophomore shortstop Matt McLain and junior center fielder Garrett Mitchell being first and second on the team in batting average, respectively, and junior right-hander Zach Pettway boasting a 3-0 record with a 1.05 ERA.

McLain – who hit .203 as a freshman a year ago – is batting .397 with a .621 slugging percentage, both good for the team lead. He also leads the team in hits, home runs and is tied with Mitchell for most extra base hits.

Pettway has made four starts for UCLA, going at least six innings in each outing. The righty has allowed no more than two earned runs in a start and only one earned run since Feb. 14 – the first game of the season – against UC Riverside. He will likely get the ball to begin the series against Oregon on Friday.

The Bruins have outscored their opponents 112-32 in their first 15 games, giving them a plus-80 run differential on the season.

Oregon will come to Jackie Robinson Stadium, having snapped a three-game losing streak in its last game March 8 in Honolulu against Hawai’i, winning the final game of the four-game series 13-2. The Ducks will enter conference play, having outscored their opponents by 21 runs.

Designated hitter/pitcher Kenyon Yovan has led the way for the Ducks’ offense, holding team leads with a .429 batting average, four home runs and an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.280. Yovan’s numbers in those offensive categories also leads all Bruins.

Last season, UCLA and Oregon played just twice, with the Bruins winning both games in Eugene by scores of 4-2 and 6-5.

Following UCLA’s statement Wednesday, fans will not be permitted to attend games at Jackie Robinson Stadium until after April 10, a precautionary measure amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. The gates will be closed to the public, with only “essential personnel” having access to the event.

The series will begin Friday with first pitch set for 6 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Games two and three will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., respectively.

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Taiyo Keilin | Assistant Sports editor
Keilin is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's soccer, cross country, women's golf and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, women's golf and men's golf beats.
Keilin is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's soccer, cross country, women's golf and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, women's golf and men's golf beats.
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