No. 6 UCLA Baseball Prepares for Pac-12 Series at Utah

March 28, 2012

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LOS ANGELES - The No. 6 UCLA baseball team travels to Salt Lake City this weekend, playing a three-game Pac-12 series at Utah (7-16, 3-3 Pac-12). Winners in 15 of their last 17 games, the Bruins (17-5, 4-2) have gone 20-7 on the road in conference action the last two years. Sophomore Adam Plutko will start on the mound for UCLA in the series opener on Friday evening at Spring Mobile Ballpark.

Friday, March 30 - 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT
UCLA - Adam Plutko, RHP, So. (3-1, 3.03)
Utah - Joe Pond, RHP, Jr. (2-3, 3.38)

Saturday, March 31 - 12 p.m. PT/1 p.m. MT
UCLA - Nick Vander Tuig, RHP, So. (2-1, 4.23)
Utah - Brock Duke, RHP, Jr. (2-0, 2.43)

Sunday, April 1 - 12 p.m. PT/1 p.m. MT
Utah - TBD

UCLA opens a three-game Pac-12 series at Utah beginning Friday, March 30. The Bruins have tallied a 7-2 record in the all-time series against the Utes, but have never played a road game against Utah. Likewise, this marks the first-ever conference meeting between UCLA and Utah in baseball, as the Utes played in the Mountain West Conference prior to joining the Pac-12 last summer. Since opening the season with a 2-3 record, the Bruins have won 15 of their last 17 games and risen to the No. 6 spot in Baseball America's weekly top-25 rankings.

Sophomore right-hander Adam Plutko will start on the mound for UCLA this Friday, sporting a 3-1 record and 3.03 ERA. Plutko earned the victory in UCLA's 12-3 win over Washington State last Friday, striking out 10 batters in six innings. He limited the visiting Cougars to three runs (two earned) and four hits in six-plus innings. Plutko went 7-4 with a 2.01 ERA as a freshman in 2011, securing All-Pac-10 Team honors as the Bruins' Sunday starter, pitching behind eventual first-round draft selections Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.

UCLA secured its fifth consecutive weekend series victory last Saturday, winning the first two of three games in a Pac-12 series against Washington State. The Bruins won by a 12-3 margin on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Sunday's game was postponed until Monday, due to rain. UCLA dropped the series finale, 10-4. Tyler Heineman went 7-for-11 (.636) with five runs and five RBI, and Beau Amaral went 8-for-14 (.571) with seven runs and four RBI en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

INTERNET RADIO (schedule available here)
UCLA will provide a live audio broadcast for 50 of the team's 56 regular-season games this season. While no radio broadcast will be available for the series at Utah this weekend, the Bruins' remaining 31 games will feature a live audio broadcast, free of charge, at UCLA's John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call at Jackie Robinson Stadium and on the road. Fans attending games at Jackie Robinson Stadium can listen to a live in-stadium broadcast on 87.7 FM.

The Bruins' offense has batted at a .312 clip through 22 games this season, leading UCLA to a 17-5 overall record. That marks a 65-point increase in batting average over UCLA's first 22 games last season (.247), when the Bruins opened the year 13-9. Currently, six hitters are batting over the .300 plateau with Jeff Gelalich leading the way (.420). Through games played Tuesday, Gelalich ranked second in the conference in batting average, third in on-base percentage (.505) and fourth in slugging percentage (.667).

Beau Amaral has opened UCLA's Pac-12 schedule on a tear, posting a .522 batting average through the team's first six conference games. Amaral has gone 12-for-23 with one home run, two doubles, 10 runs and six RBI. Amaral, now a junior, has been a mainstay in center field since the start of the 2010 season. He logged a career-high five hits in UCLA's 12-3 win on Saturday, March 24, going 5-for-6 with two doubles and three runs.

Four UCLA pitchers rank among the top five in the Pac-12 Conference in pitching appearances. Ryan Deeter (1-0, 0.69 ERA) leads all Pac-12 pitchers with 16 appearances, while David Berg (3-0, 1.96) and Grant Watson (5-1, 6.03, six starts) are tied for second with 14 outings. Scott Griggs (0-1, 2.03) is tied for fourth in appearances with 13, having recorded five saves and 21 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.

Jeff Gelalich has reached base safely in all 22 games for UCLA, having hit safely in 19 contests. The junior right fielder from La Verne, Calif., opened the season with a nine-game hitting streak. Trevor Brown has reached base in 19 games, while Tyler Heineman has recorded the team's longest hitting streak of the year, having hit safely through the first 12 games of the season. As a team, UCLA has recorded a .400 on-base percentage.

Since the start of the 2010 season, UCLA has recorded a 41-20 record in all road and neutral site contests. The Bruins have opened this season with a 5-0 record away from home. Last year, UCLA went 14-13 in road and neutral site games, while in 2010 the Bruins went 15-4 on the road and 7-3 at neutral sites. In conference action, UCLA has tallied a 20-7 record on the road the past two seasons.

UCLA's starting outfielders have posted a combined .364 batting average (91-for-250) through 22 games. Left fielder Cody Keefer (.359), center fielder Beau Amaral (.319) and right fielder Jeff Gelalich (.420) have logged a combined 358 career starts (314 in the outfield) since their freshman year in 2010. Overall, the trio of veterans has tallied a .321 career batting average with 111 extra-base hits, including 19 home runs.

In their eighth season under head coach John Savage, the Bruins have regularly played non-conference road series against teams away from the West Coast. In early March, UCLA swept a three-game series at then-No. 9 ranked Georgia. Last season, the Bruins played three consecutive extra-inning games at Nebraska. Aside from traveling to Omaha, Neb., for the 2010 College World Series, UCLA played three games in the Whataburger College Classic in Corpus Christi, Calif., that season. In 2009, UCLA spent three consecutive weekends on the road away from the West (at the Houston College Classic, Oklahoma and East Carolina).

UCLA's game against Washington in Seattle on Friday, May 11, will be played at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. With that game, the Bruins will have played seven games at a Major League Baseball stadium since the start of the 2009 season. UCLA played three games at Minute Maid Park in Houston in 2009 (part of the Houston College Classic) and has competed at Dodger Stadium in the annual Dodgertown Classic each of the last three seasons (2010-12).

UCLA has utilized juniors Tyler Heineman and Trevor Brown behind the plate, as that duo has been leaned upon to replace three-year starter Steve Rodriguez (15th round, 2011 draft, Arizona). Heineman entered the 2012 season having made just 14 starts as UCLA's catcher in his first two seasons. Brown started 10 games as the catcher in 2010 and none in 2011. He made 30 starts last season - 24 at second base, three at third and two at first. Brown has primarily served as UCLA's starting first baseman this season.

Through the first six weeks of the season, UCLA has had five Pac-12 Player of the Week or Pitcher of the Week award selections. Jeff Gelalich has twice captured Player of the Week honors (Feb. 28, March 13). Beau Amaral was named Player of the Week on Monday. Adam Plutko earned Pitcher of the Week honors (March 13) after throwing a complete game shutout at Georgia on March 9. Grant Watson was named Pitcher of the Week on March 20 after having gone 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three games (two starts) the previous week.

UCLA will play a Pac-12 series in eight of the next nine weekends to close the regular season. Following this weekend's three-game series at Utah, the Bruins will return home to host a Pac-12 series against Oregon, beginning Thursday, April 5. UCLA will play its first non-conference game in more than three weeks on Tuesday, April 10, when the Bruins host a midweek tilt against Cal State Fullerton at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

UCLA compiled a 12-game winning streak earlier this season, the program's longest such streak since opening the 2010 season with 22 consecutive victories ... the Bruins' series sweep at Georgia (March 9-11) was UCLA's first three-game series sweep on the road since March 2006 (at North Carolina State) ... dating back to the 2011 season, UCLA has won each of its last five conference series.

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