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Baseball prepares to play Arizona in first conference game of season

Junior shortstop Matt McLain is slashing .316/.431/.421 through No. 11 UCLA baseball’s first 15 games of the 2021 campaign. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)


Friday, 6 p.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-2
Saturday, 2 p.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-2
Sunday, 1 p.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-2

By Olivia Simons

March 19, 2021 11:29 a.m.

The Bruins are slated to play their first conference games in almost two years.

No. 11 UCLA baseball (10-5) will host Arizona (12-4) this weekend in its first Pac-12 contests since May 2019. The Bruins hold a 133-123-2 all-time record against the Wildcats, with a 26-20 record under coach John Savage.

Junior shortstop Matt McLain said he’s looking forward to starting conference play and the extra practice afforded by the team’s lack of a midweek game will be important before the start of the series.

“It’s exciting,” McLain said. “I’m looking forward to it, I know our team is looking forward to it. But we got to take care of practice. We got a couple days of practice before the series, we really got to get to that and get that in those days and then go into the weekend and play as a team, play together and play to win.”

McLain recorded a pair of singles in each of UCLA’s three games against Cal Poly last weekend, while also driving in two runs and scoring three.

Junior second/third baseman Mikey Perez drove in a season-high four runs in the middle game of the series in San Luis Obispo, as well as scoring an equal number of runs. He echoed McLain’s emphasis on practice before the Bruins’ series against the Wildcats starting Friday.

“It’s going to start in practice,” Perez said. “Really using those three days to kind of just fine-tune all the things on all ends of our game, pitching and the hitting. Just making sure everything’s locked in and where it needs to be to give us the best chance to kind of get a head start and get a good jump on Arizona this weekend.”

Arizona holds advantages over UCLA in both team batting average and OPS, with the Wildcats boasting .323 and .930 marks, respectively, while the Bruins stand at .269 and .773. Seven of Arizona’s nine qualified batters hold batting averages north of the .300 clip.

“(Arizona is) going to be really good,” Savage said. “They’re going to be the best team we’re going to play up until now. So if we don’t play any better than we played (Cal Poly), we’re going to certainly be disappointed again.”

Taking the mound for UCLA on Friday will be senior right-hander Zach Pettway, who will be making his third start and fourth appearance this season. Pettway currently holds a 6.43 ERA with no record and has struck out nine while walking three.

In his last outing against Cal Poly, the right-hander threw four innings, twice as many as in his first start against Pepperdine while conceding one less run.

Pitching for Arizona on Friday is right-hander Chase Silseth, who despite his 5.70 ERA holds a 3-0 record over four starts.

The following contest will feature junior right-hander Jesse Bergin making his fifth consecutive Saturday start, while junior right-hander Nick Nastrini will toss his fifth consecutive end-of-the-week match. Bergin owns a 2.18 ERA and a 3-1 record, while Nastrini’s numbers are at 3.74 and 2-1, with his lone loss coming from the Bruins’ rubber match against the Mustangs on Sunday.

Savage said UCLA’s series against Cal Poly marked a lack of strikes thrown by his pitchers, which will have to improve against Arizona.

“We got to throw more strikes,” Savage said. “We didn’t throw enough strikes (last) weekend, not enough quality strikes, which is very rare – we’ve been throwing a lot of strikes.”

First pitch Friday is set for 6 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium, where Pettway will have the opportunity to earn his first win.

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Olivia Simons | Managing editor
Simons is the 2022-2023 managing editor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats.
Simons is the 2022-2023 managing editor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats.
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