No. 5 UCLA Baseball Hits the Road to Face No. 17 Arizona
April 21, 2010
LOS ANGELES - The No. 5 UCLA baseball team will play a three-game Pac-10 series at No. 17 Arizona, beginning this Friday. The Bruins have won each of the last five series against the Wildcats, winning two of three games each year. Last season, UCLA won the first and third games at home against Arizona. The Bruins are slated to play a top-25 opponent for the third time in each of their last four weekend series (faced No. 19 Stanford, April 1-3, and No. 17 Oregon State, April 9-11).
PROBABLE STARTERS (at Arizona's Kindall Field)
Friday, April 23 (6 p.m.)
UCLA - Gerrit Cole, RHP, So. (6-1, 2.98)
Arizona - Kurt Heyer, RHP, Fr. (6-0, 2.15)
Saturday, April 24 (6 p.m.)
UCLA - Trevor Bauer, RHP, So. (5-2, 2.65)
Arizona - Kyle Simon, RHP, So. (6-2, 3.39)
Sunday, April 25 (12 p.m.)
UCLA - Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Jr. (6-0, 2.52)
Arizona - Daniel Workman, RHP, Jr. (2-0, 5.96)
In the latest college baseball polls, seven Pac-10 teams are ranked among the top-25 by at least one of five publications. Six Pac-10 teams are listed among the top-25 by Baseball America, the NCBWA and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. Collegiate Baseball has ranked seven Pac-10 teams in their top 25 spots, while Rivals.com has pegged five Pac-10 programs in the top-25. Facing Arizona this weekend and hosting Arizona State next weekend, the Bruins will play six of their next seven games against top-20 ranked competition.
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
Slated to start Friday evening for UCLA, sophomore Gerrit Cole enters this weekend's action as the Pac-10 leader in strikeouts (76) and ranks third in opponent batting average (.178). Cole brings a 6-1 record to Tucson, Ariz., this weekend, as the hard-throwing right-hander has logged a 2.98 ERA. He was tagged with his first loss of the season last Friday in a 5-4 defeat to Oregon. Through last Sunday's games, Cole ranked seventh in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (12.6) and ninth in hits allowed per nine innings (5.8).
Sophomore Trevor Bauer carries a 5-2 record and 2.65 ERA into his start on Saturday evening. The right-hander from Valencia, Calif., ranks second in the Pac-10 in strikeouts (72) and is eighth in innings pitched (57.2), through games played Tuesday. Named the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year in 2009 by Collegiate Baseball, Bauer has logged a 14-5 record and 2.87 ERA in 28 career appearances (18 starts). Through 163.0 career innings, he has limited the opposition to a .229 batting average.
SIX IN A ROW
Junior Rob Rasmussen has earned the victory in each of his last six starts (dating back to a 5-2 win over then-No. 25 Oklahoma on March 14). Sporting a 6-0 record this spring, Rasmussen has posted a 2.52 ERA, collecting 69 strikeouts and 21 walks in 50.0 innings. The native of Arcadia, Calif., limited Oregon to four hits in 6.1 scoreless innings last Sunday, striking out six batters while walking two to help the Bruins salvage the three-game series. Rasmussen has struck out 46 batters and walked 10 through his last six starts.
The Bruins opened the week ranked No. 5, nationally, by Baseball America and Rivals.com. In addition, UCLA was ranked No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, No. 7 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association (NCBWA) and No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball. The Bruins were ranked No. 1 by Baseball America and Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com on April 12, marking UCLA's first midseason No. 1 ranking since earning the top spot on March 3, 1997, from both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.
The Bruins have enjoyed strong crowds at home, posting a 17-5 record in 22 games played at Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Last weekend, the Bruins dropped two of three games at home to Oregon. In the series finale on Sunday, UCLA welcomed 1,986 fans in one of the best draws to Jackie Robinson Stadium in recent history. To accomodate the near-record-breaking crowds, UCLA has added seating for up to 650 additional fans at Jackie Robinson Stadium, allowing the facility to accomodate as many as 2,000 spectators.
Senior Blair Dunlap leads the team with 16 doubles, ranks second with 42 hits (behind Tyler Rahmatulla's 44 hits) and is third with a .365 batting average. Dunlap has moved into a three-way tie for ninth place on UCLA's career doubles list (44, tied with Brandon Crawford and Pete Zamora). Dunlap led the Bruins with 17 doubles last season. UCLA's most veteran hitter, Dunlap has compiled a .301 career batting average in 168 games, totaling 64 career extra-base hits (15 home runs, five triples and 44 doubles).
Through Tuesday's games, UCLA leads the Pac-10 with 373 strikeouts (ahead of second-best Arizona State, 316) and has averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings. The Bruins' three weekend starting pitchers are the conference's top three strikeout leaders - Gerrit Cole (76), Trevor Bauer (72) and Rob Rasmussen (69). Garett Claypool sits just outside the Pac-10's top-10 strikeout leaders with 53 punchouts. Through last Sunday's games, UCLA ranked first in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings and hits allowed per nine innings.
WORTH AN ESPY
Sophomore Dean Espy has excelled as a corner infielder in his first season with the Bruins. Leading UCLA with a .387 batting average, Espy transferred to UCLA last summer after having starred at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix in 2009. He leads the Bruins in RBI (29) and slugging percentage (.645) and is tied with Brett Krill and Steve Rodriguez for the team lead in home runs with five. In addition, Espy leads the Bruins in Pac-10 play wtih a .407 batting average and 11 hits.
Sophomore Tyler Rahmatulla stands as the only player for UCLA to have started all 33 games (all at second base). Rahmatulla enters the weekend ranking second on the team with a .370 batting average and is first among all hitters with 44 hits, 31 runs, 28 walks and a .487 on-base percentage. Rahmatulla has tallied the game-winning RBI in seven games this season, including in UCLA's 10-0 victory at UC Riverside on April 13. Rahmatulla ranks fifth in the Pac-10 with a .487 OBP and leads the conference with six sacrifice flies.
Sophomore right-hander Dan Klein has been named to the Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List, as announced in mid-April by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association. Klein leads UCLA and ranks third in the Pac-10 with seven saves, having logged a 2-0 record and 0.35 ERA. The resident of Los Alamitos, Calif., has collected 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 26.0 innings. Klein is currently tied for seventh place on UCLA's single-season saves list with Bobby Roe (1998).
UCLA has gone 5-2 against teams ranked in Baseball America's top-25 poll (team ranked in poll on day of game). UCLA defeated then-No. 25 Oklahoma, 5-2, in the Whataburger College Classic (March 14) before winning two of three games against then-No. 19 Stanford and then-No. 17 Oregon State. One year ago, the Bruins went 8-13 against top-25 competition, playing more games and earning more victories against top-25 teams than any other Pac-10 program. UCLA is slated to play 10 more games against top-25 teams this year.
UCLA's 16-inning victory two weeks ago at Oregon State marked the program's longest game (by innings) since an 18-inning game at Arizona State on Feb. 23, 1990. The Bruins lost 6-5 in the series opener at Arizona State that evening before 4,037 fans. The longest extra-inning game in Pac-10 history came in 1972, as Washington and Oregon State played a 20-inning contest (date, score unknown). UCLA's 3-1 win against Oregon State lasted six hours, 23 minutes and featured 12 pitchers (eight by Oregon State, four by UCLA).
HOW WE COMPARE
Through Tuesday's games, UCLA's pitching staff leads the Pac-10 in ERA (2.81), strikeouts (373) and opponent batting average (.208). The Bruins rank second in wins (27) and have allowed the fifth-fewest walks (111). UCLA's offense ranks fourth in the Pac-10 in batting average (.319) and slugging percentage (.476) and is third in on-base percentage (.406). The Bruins are second in the Pac-10 with 30 home runs and are fourth with 76 doubles. UCLA's .973 fielding percentage is the third-highest mark among Pac-10 programs.
BEHIND THE PLATE
Sophomore Steve Rodriguez has started as UCLA's catcher in 26 of 33 games this spring. He is tied for the team lead in home runs (five) with Dean Espy and Brett Krill. Sporting a .286 batting average, Rodriguez delievered the game-winning two-RBI single in UCLA's 16-inning, 3-1 victory at Oregon State (April 10), going 4-for-8 in that contest. He has helped guide the Bruins' pitching staff to a Pac-10-leading 2.44 ERA and .200 opponent batting average. With fellow catchers Trevor Brown and Tyler Heineman, Rodriguez has helped limited the opposition to 31 steal attempts, third-fewest in the Pac-10.
LOOKING FOR RELIEF
UCLA's bullpen has gone 6-2 with a 3.04 ERA and nine saves through 33 games. The Bruins' relief corps has logged 118 strikeouts and 36 walks, posting a .222 opponent batting average. Eight relief pitchers have combined to make 87 appearances out of the bullpen. No relief appearance may have been more impressive than that of right-hander Garett Claypool in UCLA's 16-inning triumph at Oregon State on April 10. Claypool earned the victory that evening, limiting the Beavers to one hit in 4.2 scoreless innings.
NOTES ON A STREAK
UCLA opened the season by winning its first 22 games, the Bruins' best-ever start to any baseball season in the program's 91-year history. Prior to going 22-0 in 2010, UCLA's best starts on record took place in 1978 (8-0) and in 1997 (7-0). The Bruins won their first 22 games, outscoring their opponents by a combined 189-59 margin. UCLA posted a .356 batting average during its record streak while the pitching staff logged a 2.22 ERA and 273 strikeouts through 199.0 innings (12.4 strikeouts per nine innings).