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UCLA baseball to face Arizona State after largest losing deficit in 16 years

Junior third baseman Kyle Karros loads up on a pitch during a game against USC. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin)

Baseball


Arizona State
Thursday, 7 p.m.

Phoenix
Pac-12 Los Angeles
Arizona State
Friday, 6 p.m.

Phoenix
Pac-12 Networks
Arizona State
Saturday, 12 p.m.

Phoenix
Pac-12 Networks

By Shane Smith

May 18, 2023 10:54 a.m.

The Bruins have no time to sulk after their biggest loss since 2007.

UCLA baseball (26-21-1, 11-14-1 Pac-12) will face Arizona State (29-21, 14-12) on the road beginning Thursday night for its final series of the regular season. The Bruins will have the chance to bounce back after losing Sunday’s rubber match to No. 10 Oregon State 21-5, the team’s largest losing deficit since being shut out by California 16-0 on May 6, 2007.

Junior third baseman Kyle Karros said the Bruins can learn from a difficult loss such as Sunday’s.

“Coming off of a tough game like that – and really any failure in sports – shouldn’t really be looked at as a failure. It should be more looked at as a learning opportunity,” Karros said. “But at the same time, we’re getting down to the end of the season, so it’s time we start acting on the stuff we learned instead of just keep having learning experiences.”

Sitting at 59th in the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings, UCLA finds itself on the bubble of the NCAA tournament’s field of 64 and at risk of missing the tournament for the first time since 2016. After a 16-3 start to the season, the Bruins have gone 10-18-1, and barring a sweep of Arizona State are in line for their third losing record in conference play in the last 18 seasons.

Nevertheless, coach John Savage said his team is in control of its own future.

“It’s a really good opportunity to be able to fight for your season and know that you have to win to continue,” Savage said. “We’re still around, and we still have an opportunity to get to the postseason, so we need to recognize that.”

UCLA’s recent struggles have been largely pitching-related. Savage’s staff has struggled with injuries, with only two pitchers reaching enough innings to qualify. Nevertheless, the Bruins have given up at least five runs in 12 of their last 14 games and at least nine runs in six of their last nine. Through the first 20 games of the season, they had the second-best ERA in the country but have since dropped to 37th.

[Related: UCLA baseball looks to finish season strong after working around injuries]

Redshirt sophomore infielder AJ Salgado – who recorded a hit in each game against Oregon State last weekend – said the team is focused on unity with its season potentially on the line.

“The biggest message from the coaching staff is just staying together and sticking with each other,” Salgado said. “When teams are going through rough times, it’s pretty easy to separate yourself from each other and kind of point fingers.”

Junior right-hander Jake Brooks, the Bruins’ usual series-opening starter, is not currently projected to start and will have his spot in the rotation taken by senior right-hander Kelly Austin. Brooks appeared to roll his ankle on the on-deck circle while covering home at the end of his last start, but exited the game unassisted.

Following Austin, sophomore left-hander Ethan Flanagan is penciled in for Friday, with Saturday’s starter yet to be announced.

With three games to play, everything is on the line for UCLA this weekend.

“It’s the postseason right now,” Savage said. “You have to make sure that you’re being very detailed, and you’re very engaged with the team.”

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Shane Smith | Sports contributor
Smith is currently a contributor on the beach volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's soccer beat.
Smith is currently a contributor on the beach volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's soccer beat.
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