No. 19 UCLA Baseball Welcomes Nebraska for Three-Game Home Series
March 3, 2010
LOS ANGELES - The No. 19 UCLA baseball team looks to extend its perfect 6-0 start with a three-game series against Nebraska at Jackie Robinson Stadium this weekend. Due to rain in the weekend forecast, UCLA and Nebraska will play a doubleheader on Friday (2 p.m., 6 p.m.) before closing the series on Saturday at 2 p.m. Sophomore right-hander Gerrit Cole will take the mound for game one of Friday's doubleheader.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday, March 5 (2 p.m.) - Jackie Robinson Stadium
Nebraska - Sean Yost, RHP, So. (1-0, 4.66)
UCLA - Gerrit Cole, RHP, So. (2-0, 3.27)
Friday, March 5 (6 p.m.) - Jackie Robinson Stadium
Nebraska - Michael Mariot, RHP, Jr. (0-1, 7.20)
UCLA - Trevor Bauer, RHP, So. (1-0, 3.38)
Saturday, March 6 (2 p.m.) - Jackie Robinson Stadium
Nebraska - Tom Lemke, RHP, Fr. (2-0, 0.84)
UCLA - Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Jr. (0-0, 5.40)
*if Saturday's game is postponed due to rain, UCLA and Nebraska will play on Sunday at 11 a.m.
GETTING TO JACKIE ROBINSON STADIUM
Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium is located on the grounds of the West Los Angeles Veteran Administration, north of Wilshire Blvd. and west of the 405 Freeway. Fans can enter the stadium from Wilshire Blvd. (take ramp to Bonsalle Ave. on VA grounds, slightly west of Sepulveda Blvd.) or at the intersection of Sepulveda Blvd. and Constitution Ave. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $5 for children 16 years and younger. UCLA's baseball concession stand is stocked with hot dogs, peanuts, sodas and much more classic ballpark food.
LISTEN LIVE ONLINE
All home baseball games will be broadcast live on the Bruins' baseball website at uclabruins.com. UCLA's John Ramey will provide the play-by-play and will be accompanied throughout the year by color commentators Nick Theodorou and Danny Rees. In addition, fans can follow the action online through GameTracker, a pitch-by-pitch update of the game in progress, located at uclabruins.com.
With the an impending threat of rain in the Los Angeles area on Saturday and Sunday, UCLA and Nebraska have altered this weekend's schedule to ensure that all three games can be played. The series' first two games will be played in a doubleheader on Friday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Game three of the series is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. If rain postpones Saturday's series finale, the two teams will conclude the series as previously scheduled on Sunday at 11 a.m.
The Bruins have opened the season 6-0 for the first time since 1997, the last season in which UCLA advanced to the College World Series. UCLA has outscored its opposition by a 65-14 margin through the season's first six games. Last week, the Bruins posted a perfect 3-0 record by outscoring Long Beach State (10-1), Vanderbilt (9-2) and USC (6-1) by a combined 25-4 margin. UCLA's 1997 team won its first seven games and the Bruins' 1978 squad won its first eight contests. The Bruins' best one-loss start to a season came in 1969, the first season in which UCLA advanced to the College World Series - that year, UCLA began the year 16-1.
UCLA defeated USC, 6-1, on Sunday afternoon before 14,588 fans at Dodger Stadium in the final contest of the first-ever Dodgertown Classic. Sunday's crowd ranks as the third-largest to ever watch a UCLA baseball game and stands as the highest single-game attendance thus far, nationally, in college baseball this season. UCLA drew over 18,000 fans to each of two games at the College World Series in June 1997. The Bruins overcame a 1-0 deficit in the fifth inning before scoring three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth to ice a 6-1 victory. The Bruins have now won 10 of their last 13 meetings against crosstown rival USC.
DON'T BE OFFENDED
While UCLA's pitching has been hailed in preseason prognostications as the team's greatest strength, the Bruins' offense has paid dividends this season. UCLA has posted a .379 team batting average, collecting 28 extra-base hits, including a Pac-10-leading 11 home runs. The Bruins have registered a .471 on-base percentage and a .621 slugging percentage. Six players have logged a batting average of .400 or higher, as corner infielder Dean Espy leads the group with a .500 average (5-for-10, 2 HR, 7 RBI). Outfielder Brett Krill (.474) and infielder Tyler Rahmatulla (.409) are tied for the team lead with nine hits.
ABOUT THE HUSKERS
UCLA has logged a 2-0 all-time record against Nebraska. The Bruins won a 12-9 decision in the two programs' first-ever meeting (March 1, 1997) before defeating the Huskers, 4-2, in the second meeting (March 13, 2004) in San Diego's Petco Park (Aztec Invitational). Nebraska enters the weekend series having posted a .298 team batting average and 5.78 team ERA. DJ Belfonte leads all Husker hitters with a .467 batting average (14-for-30, 7 RBI, 6 runs) and projected Game 3 starter Tom Lemke has gone 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings. Last weekend, Nebraska defeated Texas A&M-CC (21-3) and Elon (5-3) and lost to Rice (4-3).
PROOF IS IN THE PITCHING
The Bruins' pitching staff has posted a 2.17 ERA, logging 75 strikeouts and 16 walks in 54.0 innings. Right-handers Gerrit Cole (starter) and Erik Goeddel (reliever) have each gone 2-0. As a staff, the Bruins are averaging 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Cole leads the group with 17 strikeouts in 11.0 frames. Opponents are hitting UCLA at a Pac-10-best .188 clip. The Bruins' bullpen has allowed zero earned runs (one unearned) and scattered 11 hits in 19.2 innings, The bullpen has recorded 28 strikeouts and four walks. Right-hander Erik Goeddel leads the group with two wins in relief, having tossed 7.2 scoreless frames.
Sophomore Dean Espy (JC transfer, South Mountain CC) and freshman Cody Regis have been among the Bruins' top hitters two weeks into the season. Both newcomers have earned starts at third base, and each player has impressed at the plate. Espy leads UCLA with a .500 (5-for-10) batting average, having belted two homers and collected seven RBI. Regis has batted .412 (7-for-17) with two doubles, five RBI And five runs. The former standout at Glendora High School has recorded a .500 on-base percentage and stolen two bases in two attempts. Regis went 2-for-4 with two RBI and one double in UCLA's 10-1 win at Long Beach State (Feb. 23).
Entering the 2010 season, the Bruins returned just four players who hit a combined 13 of UCLA's 54 home runs in 2009. Through six games, UCLA has belted a Pac-10-best 11 home runs. Blair Dunlap smacked the first pitch as UCLA's leadoff hitter in the first inning of its season opener for a home run (Feb. 19, vs. Southern). Steve Rodriguez leads the group with four homers - including two against Bethune Cookman (Feb. 20) on national television (MLB Network). Dean Espy and Niko Gallego have each clubbed two home runs.
FRESHMEN IN THE OUTFIELD
Freshmen outfielders Beau Amaral and Cody Keefer have opened their UCLA careers in flourishing fashion. Amaral, who hails from Huntington Beach, Calif., has batted .421 with one home run, four RBI and six runs in six games (four starts, all in center field). Keefer, a native of Davis, Calif., has batted .400 with a .571 on-base percentage, the fourth-highest mark in the Pac-10 through Tuesday's games. Keefer ranks second in the Pac-10 with eight walks, and has gone 8-for-20 with two doubles, four RBI and seven runs.
UP THE MIDDLE
Shortstop Niko Gallego and second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla have started each of the Bruins' first six games. Gallego, the son of former major leaguer Mike Gallego, has batted .333 with a team-high nine RBI and six runs. Rahmatulla has batted .409, going 9-for-22, with five RBI and five runs. Rahmatulla had a key bases-clearing double in UCLA's 14-5 comeback victory against Cal State Northridge on Feb 21. Other options up the middle for UCLA include freshman Cody Regis and sophomore Adrian Williams.
Seniors Blair Dunlap and Justin Uribe return as two of the Bruins' most talented veteran hitters. Dunlap has batted .357 through the season's first six games, recording three RBI and five runs. The redshirt senior from Mission Viejo, Calif., is UCLA's most veteran player and is a two-time All-NACA Regional Team selection (2006 at Pepperdine, 2008 at Fullerton). Uribe has batted over .283 in each of his three seasons in Westwood. A first baseman from Santa Ana, Calif., Uribe is batting .389 with one double, four RBI and three runs. Uribe batted .318 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 47 games (41 starts) in 2009.
UCLA has scored in 29 of its 50 offensive innings this season. The Bruins crossed the plate a season-high nine times in the bottom of the first in a 16-2 opening night win over Southern (Feb. 19). The Bruins have twice scored in the first inning this season and are 4-0 when scoring before their opponent. UCLA overcame a 4-1 deficit against Cal State Northridge on Feb. 21, to win by a 14-5 margin. Last Sunday, the Bruins defeated USC, 6-1, after trailing 1-0 headed to the bottom of the fifth inning.
Baseball America predicted that UCLA will finish second in the Pac-10 standings, behind defending conference champion Arizona State. The national baseball publication projected four Pac-10 teams to secure NCAA Regional berths (Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Stanford). Baseball America's preseason All-Conference Team includes right-hander Gerrit Cole. Outfielder Cody Keefer is rated as the Pac-10's ninth-best newcomer. Left-hander Rob Rasmussen is listed as the Pac-10's top draft prospect for the June 2010 MLB Draft.