UCLA baseball prepares for NCAA regional matchup against Florida State
Sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic delivers a pitch. The two-time Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week will return to the mound for the first time since May 19 on Friday. (Olivia Simons/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Friday, 9 a.m.
By Jay Fenn
June 2, 2022 12:51 p.m.
Two of the best pitchers in the country will likely face off in the opening round of the NCAA regionals.
UCLA baseball (38-22, 19-11 Pac-12) is set to take on Florida State (33-23, 15-15 ACC) in the first contest of the Auburn Regional in Auburn, Alabama. The Bruins will send sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic to the mound, while the Tigers are expected to start left-hander Parker Messick, according to UCLA coach John Savage.
Messick is coming off a redshirt freshman season in 2021 that saw him win both the ACC Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards. The redshirt sophomore left-hander didn’t lose a step in 2022, finishing the campaign with 140 strikeouts in 93.2 innings, good enough to earn him an All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team selection.
Savage said Messick will be one of the best pitchers the Bruins see all year.
“He’s (Messick’s) a very complete pitcher. He’s got a really good command of his fastball, an elite changeup and a good breaking ball,” Savage said. “He’s a guy that you expect to see in the postseason.”
UCLA’s offense is coming off its best stretch of the season, putting up a combined 55 runs in the final four games of the Pac-12 tournament. The Bruins had two players selected to the Pac-12 All-Tournament team in freshman infielder Ethan Goursonand junior infielder/outfielder Michael Curialle, who garnered .435/.517/.565 and .538/.552/.731 slash lines, respectively.
Sophomore outfielder Carson Yates said the Bruins understand how talented Messick is but believe they will be prepared to face the left-hander.
“He’s (Messick’s) a great pitcher. He’s had a great year,” Yates said. “We’ve just got to trust our approach and trust what (assistant) coach (Bryant) Ward preaches. We’ve just got to keep seeing the ball every pitch and not beat ourselves.”
Rajcic, however, is not without his own accolades. Although the 2021 Freshman All-American sat out of the Pac-12 Tournament, the sophomore is coming off a month of May that saw him win two Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week awards while also winning a series-opening contest against then-No. 2 Oregon State.
Freshman right-hander Alonzo Tredwell – who has served as UCLA’s closer over the last few weeks of regular season – said getting Rajcic back on the mound instills confidence in his team.
“It’s huge, just to have that arm back in our rotation,” Tredwell said. “It’s a big momentum swing for us to know that we’ve got our ace out there.”
Besides Rajcic, UCLA will also see freshman infielder and Pac-12 All-Conference selection Cody Schrier make his return to the lineup after missing the final four games of the Pac-12 tournament.
Tredwell said the Bruins have worked all year for this moment and they will be ready.
“I’m fired up. I’m ready to compete,” Tredwell said. “Obviously this is the time of the year that we all wait for. This is the road we’ve wanted to take the whole year, and we’ve been looking forward to it. So we’re ready to compete this week.”