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‘Fighting for our lives’: UCLA baseball preps for big series against Oregon State

Junior right-hander Caedon Kottinger grips a knuckle curve as he lunges to deliver a pitch. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


No. 15 Oregon State
Friday, 7 p.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium
Pac-12 Los Angeles
No. 15 Oregon State
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium
Pac-12 Networks
No. 15 Oregon State
Sunday, 12 p.m.

Jackie Robinson Stadium
Pac-12 Los Angeles

By Benjamin Royer

May 11, 2023 11:01 p.m.

Each game remaining on the Bruins’ schedule can help pave the way toward their goal: an NCAA tournament berth.

However, every dip into the loss column raises the stakes of upcoming affairs and ultimately, their fate.

One defeat could prove the difference between making the postseason or missing out entirely. Coach John Savage said he knows the importance of the series ahead.

“We clearly are fighting for our lives,” Savage said.

With just six games left in the regular-season schedule, UCLA baseball (25-19-1, 10-12-1 Pac-12) will face off against No. 15 Oregon State (34-14, 16-11) – which ranks No. 30 nationally in the rating percentage index – and could build its postseason resume should it claim victories on home turf this weekend.

Following California’s sweep of UCLA – the first time the Bruins have been swept at home by a conference opponent since 2014 – the team’s RPI took a nosedive from 42nd to 60th before jumping a spot to 59th after defeating Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday.

Junior right-hander Caedon Kottinger said despite realizing that each game affects their resume, the Bruins are placing their focus solely on what’s next.

“Obviously, we’re in a tough position, playoffswise, but we’re just taking it one game at a time and not worrying about the future,” Kottinger said. “Just trying to dominate one thing (game) at a time.”

A victory was previously elusive for UCLA.

Before defeating the Titans in midweek action, the Bruins had dropped seven of their last 10 games and were in the throes of a five-game losing streak.

Freshman outfielder Jarrod Hocking said there was a sense of togetherness after defeating Fullerton.

“I just thought we responded the right way, played as a team and played together,” Hocking said. “And good things happen when we do that.”

Because of injuries to junior third baseman Kyle Karros, redshirt sophomore infielder AJ Salgado and sophomore center fielder Malakhi Knight, Hocking earned playing time as one of the few healthy position players Savage had available.

(Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)
Sophomore center fielder Malakhi Knight rests on his knees after making a diving catch, as junior outfielder Carson Yates runs behind him. Knight has missed the team's last four games. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

After contributing as a makeshift second baseman alongside graduate student catcher Knox Loposer, the rookie shifted back to the outfield.

In recent weeks, Hocking has started at center field and is penciled in as second in the lineup with a .289 batting average on the team – the third-best among players with at least 80 at-bats – and emerging pop, shown with his grand slam during Tuesday’s win.

Savage said Hocking’s family ties are partly why the Orange County local has transitioned to the collegiate landscape.

“He’s grown as a player,” Savage said. “He’s got confidence. He’s a baseball player. … His dad played in the big leagues for a long, long time, grew up around a major league clubhouse. He just has that really good heart rate and good pulse for the game.”

Wins against the Beavers could go a long way for UCLA’s NCAA tournament selection chances as they hover on the bubble of the top-64 teams by RPI.

Hocking said he is hoping to take Tuesday’s victory into the weekend and make a statement against Oregon State.

“It’s definitely a big series,” Hocking said. “Coming off a win, hopefully, we can use that. Come into this weekend with good energy and just be ready to play.”

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Benjamin Royer | Alumnus
Royer was the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
Royer was the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
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