Baseball Begins Pac-12 Play at No. 11 UCLA
TUCSON, Ariz. — Pac-12 Conference play begins for the Arizona Wildcats (12-4) this weekend as they trip to Los Angeles for three games against the No. 11 UCLA Bruins (10-5). First pitch for game one on Friday night is set for 6:00 p.m. MST.
This weekend marks the beginning of conference play for both teams, and the first Pac-12 action for both clubs since the 2019 season. Last year's campaign was cut short nationwide before conference play could begin.
The Wildcats enter the weekend 12-4, sporting the most wins of any Pac-12 program through the first month of play. They will look to ride their red-hot offense to a series victory in L.A. for the first time since taking two-of-three from the Bruins in 2017.
A complete weekend preview is below.
|Date||Time (MST) / Result||Arizona Pitcher||UCLA Pitcher|
|Friday. March 19||6:00 PM||RHP Chase Silseth (3-0, 5.70)||RHP Zach Pettway (0-0, 6.43)|
|Saturday, March 20||2:00 PM||LHP Garrett Irvin (0-1, 3.38)||RHP Jessee Bergin (3-1, 2.18)|
|Sunday, March 21||1:00 PM||RHP TJ Nichols (3-0, 4.29)||RHP Nick Nastrini (2-1, 3.74)|
- Arizona kicks off Pac-12 Conference play with a trip to Los Angeles for a three-game series against No. 11 UCLA. The Wildcats did not reach conference play in 2020 before the season was shut down.
- The Wildcats trail the all-time series with the Bruins 123-131-1. The two teams last met in Los Angeles in 2019, with the Bruins sweeping the three-game series. Arizona last won a road series at UCLA in 2017 when they took two of three games on scores of 19-4, 4-3, and 7-8 (11 innings).
- Arizona has scored at least one run in 125 straight games. They have not suffered a shutout loss since falling 1-0 at Washington on March 17, 2018. Their 125-game scoring streak is the longest active scoring streak in the Pac-12.
- Arizona's 175 wins since 2016 are the third-most in the Pac-12 Conference, behind only Oregon State (198) and Stanford (179). Head coach Jay Johnson's .636 winning percentage at Arizona is the second-best mark by a Wildcats head coach in the modern era (1950-current).
- Over the last 45 games Arizona has played, dating back to 2019, the Wildcats have gone 35-10 (.778) and won nine series.
- Under head coach Jay Johnson the Wildcats have produced winning conference records in three of four seasons. Arizona has posted a record of 62-59 (.512) in Pac-12 play since the 2016 season.
SOME SERIES THEMES: The Arizona Wildcats kick off Pac-12 Conference play this weekend with a trip to Los Angeles for a three-game series against the No. 11 UCLA Bruins...This weekend will mark the first time Arizona has faced a conference opponent since their three-game series at Washington State in late May, 2019...The Wildcats did not reach conference play in 2020 before the season was shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic...Arizona trails in the all-time series with UCLA, 123-131-1...The last meeting between the two programs was in mid-March, 2019, when UCLA swept a three-game series in Los Angeles...The Wildcats last won a road series against the Bruins in 2017, when they went 2-1 in L.A...Last weekend, Arizona split a pair of two-game series against Wichita State and Air Force...Originally scheduled as a four-game series against the Shockers, last weekend's schedule was altered twice due to travel and inclement weather...Over the last 45 games Arizona has played, dating back to 2019, the Wildcats have gone 35-10 (.778)...The Wildcats 12 wins are the most in the Pac-12, while their .750 winning percentage ranks fifth in the conference...Arizona enters conference play ranked in the Top 25 by four of the five major national polls; the Wildcats are No. 17 by Baseball America, No. 19 by the NCBWA, and No. 21 by Collegiate Baseball and the USA Today Coaches Poll...Seven regular members of the Wildcats starting lineup are currently hitting above the .300 mark, with three of them — Branden Boissiere (.458), Jacob Berry (.367), and Ryan Holgate (.362) — sporting a batting average above .350...Right-handed relievers Preston Price and Vince Vannelle continue to impress out of the Arizona bullpen; the two have combined to strike out 32 in 22.2 innings of work while allowing just 14 hits and four earned runs...UCLA is led by 17th-year head coach John Savage...The Bruins are currently 10-5 and dropped their most recent series 1-2 at Cal Poly...UCLA is ranked by all five major national polls, and is considered a Top 15 program by the NCBWA (10), D1Baseball (11), USA Today Coaches Poll (13), and Collegiate Baseball (15).
STREAKONOMICS: The longest active hit streak from a Wildcat is six games, belonging to outfielder Blake Paugh. During the streak he has hit .379 (11x29) with 10 runs scored, eight extra-base hits, and nine RBI. Infielder Jacob Blas owns the longest active on-base streak on the team — he has reached base safely in all 16 of Arizona's games this year. Dating back to the shortened 2020 season, Blas' on-base streak expands to 24 games. Close behind Blas is outfielder Mac Bingham, who currently sports a 12-game on-base streak. Blas and Bingham are the only two Wildcats with on-base streaks lasting longer than 10 games.
RUNNING WILD: Arizona has scored at least one run in 125 straight games — they have not suffered a shutout loss since falling 1-0 at Washington on March 17, 2018. The Wildcats 125-game scoring streak is the longest active streak in the Pac-12 and 26 more games than the next closest team, UCLA (99 games). Over the course of their 125-game scoring stretch, Arizona has been held to three runs or fewer just 19 times. On the flip side, during the streak they have scored five or more runs 62 times. Arizona and UCLA are the only two programs in the Pac-12 Conference with scoring streaks longer than 50 games. UCLA was last shut out by a pitching staff coached by current Arizona associate head coach Nate Yeskie.
WHO'S THE BOSS: Arizona first baseman Branden Boissiere has done nothing but hit since arriving on campus in Tucson. Over 70 career games (55 starts), Boissiere has posted a .366 career batting average and paired it with a career .522 slugging percentage and .455 on-base percentage. Through 16 games this year he is hitting at a blistering pace, currently batting .458 (27x59) to lead the Pac-12 Conference and rank third in the nation (among players with at least 15 games played). Boissiere also currently leads the nation in runs (26) and paces the Pac-12 in hits (27), and OBP (.571). He also ranks among the conference's top 10 players in RBI (T-5th, 16) and SLG (6th, .695). Boissiere has logged nine multi-hit games this year, second on the team only to Ryan Holgate (10) — he has four two-hit games, four three-hit games, and one career-high four-hit performance.
POLL POSITION: The Wildcats enter their fourth week of play ranked in four-of-five major national polls. Arizona is currently ranked No. 17 by Baseball America, No. 19 by the NCBWA, and No. 21 by Collegiate Baseball and the USA Today Coaches Poll. Arizona opened the season ranked by every major poll, and earned a preseason ranking from Collegiate Baseball for the fifth year in a row. The only Pac-12 Conference programs currently ranked in the D1Baseball poll are UCLA at No. 11, Oregon at No. 20, and Oregon State at No. 23.
CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS: In four turns through Pac-12 play under head coach Jay Johnson, the Wildcats have produced three winning conference campaigns and an overall Pac-12 record of 62-59 (.512). In the 10 years prior to coach Johnson's arrival (2006-15), Arizona finished conference play with a winning record three times. In the Wildcats last chance at Pac-12 play in 2019 they ended the year with eight straight conference wins and finished 15-14. The 2019 Wildcats averaged 9.0 runs/game and hit .317.
THE YESKIE EFFECT: Since arriving in Tucson prior to the 2020 season, associate head coach Nate Yeskie has delivered results for the Wildcats pitching staff. Prior to Yeskie's arrival, Arizona's 2019 pitching staff posted a 6.21 ERA, a K/9 rate of just 7.52, and a BB/9 rate of 5.33 while allowing opposing batters to hit .287. Under the direction of coach Yeskie Wildcat pitchers have aggressively attacked the strike zone, leading to higher strikeout rates and lower walk rates, which in turn has dropped opponent batting averages and lowered the staff ERA. Particularly of note is Arizona's walk rate, which has declined every year under coach Yeskie — after walking 5.33 batters per nine innings pitching in 2019, the Wildcats dropped that rate to 4.67 in 2020 and have so far reduced the rate again to 4.38 in 2021.