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UCLA baseball to confront California in 1st round of inaugural Pac-12 tournament

Baseball


No. 6 seed California
Wednesday, time TBD

Scottsdale Stadium
Pac-12 Networks

By Joseph Crosby

May 22, 2022 11:32 p.m.

The Bruins are venturing into the postseason in a new way.

No. 3 seed UCLA baseball (35-20, 19-11 Pac-12) will open the first-ever Pac-12 baseball tournament run against No. 6 seed California (28-25, 14-16) at Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona on Wednesday. With the introduction of a conference tournament in 2022, the Bruins will have about a week of extra games to play before a potential appearance at the NCAA regional.

Coach John Savage said the novelty of the playoff series makes it an unknown challenge.

“We’ve never played in a Pac-12 tournament before – no one has,” Savage said. “You’re always getting prepared to go play a regional at this time, so it feels a little different. People don’t really know what to expect from it.”

With a sweep of No. 2 Oregon State in the final series of the regular season, UCLA could have claimed the second seed of the tournament. Despite taking the first two games of the series, a 9-3 loss in the Saturday finale dropped the Bruins to the No. 3 seed and one game behind the Beavers in the overall Pac-12 standings.

Sophomore outfielder Carson Yates said UCLA’s series win over Oregon State shows the team it can take on any opponent.

“We already knew this, but it tells us that we’re right up there with everyone else and can play with the best of them,” Yates said. “We can compete with whoever we want to at any given moment.”

Cal enters the opening-round contest on a six-game winning streak, sweeping Utah and New Mexico and outscoring them 82-16 in the process. UCLA, on the other hand, is 5-1 in its last six weekend contests with a sweep over Washington State and series victory against Oregon State.

In their regular-season matchup in late April, the Bruins took two out of three from the Bears in Berkeley, scoring 15 total runs in the two wins. If UCLA secures a first-round win, it would face the winner of No. 2 seed Oregon State versus No. 7 seed Washington. Because of the tournament’s double-elimination format, a loss would relegate the blue and gold to the losers bracket without eliminating it entirely.

With a number of pitchers sidelined because of injury, sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic said relying on the remaining members of the pitching staff will be essential for success in the tournament.

“It’s going to be our depth,” Rajcic said. “We’re going to use everyone because it’s a five-day tournament. Having everyone be ready to throw and get after it – that’ll be the key to winning the Pac-12 tournament.”

After reaching the top 10 in D1Baseball’s national rankings May 2, the Bruins fell to No. 23 the following week and remained there going into their final week of the regular season. Rajcic, however, said the rankings aren’t something the team focuses on in preparation for the postseason.

“We do look at it because it’s cool to see where we’re ranked, but it doesn’t really matter where we’re ranked,” Rajcic said. “We’re just going to try to play Bruin baseball, and if we play Bruin baseball, then we should be one of the best teams in the nation.”

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Joseph Crosby | Sports editor
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
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