Los Angeles, Calif. - UCLA will return to conference play this weekend as they get set to welcome in crosstown rivals USC for a three-game set from Thursday to Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Game times are 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Thursday, April 24 - 6 p.m.
USC – Wyatt Strahan, RHP, Jr. (3-3, 3.83)
UCLA – James Kaprielian, RHP, So. (5-3, 2.12)
Friday, April 25 - 7 p.m.
USC – Brent Wheatley, RHP, So. (3-1, 2.98)
UCLA – Grant Watson, LHP, Jr. (4-5, 3.68)
Saturday, April 26 - 2 p.m.
USC – Bob Wheatley, LHP, Sr. (3-3, 3.86)
UCLA – Cody Poteet, RHP, So. (3-2, 4.44)
UCLA will return to conference play this weekend as they get set to welcome in crosstown rivals USC for a three-game set from Thursday to Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Despite the Trojans holding a 253-131 advantage in the all-time series, the Bruins have had remarkable success against their crosstown rivals in recent years. Since John Savage became head coach of the Bruins in the summer of 2004, the Bruins have gone 24-9 against USC and have not lost a season series to the Trojans since 2005. UCLA has also won 24 of its last 29 games against the Trojans, including the last nine meetings. The Bruins have swept the season series with the Trojans in each of the last two seasons. The two sides met earlier this season at USC’s Dedeaux Field, with the Bruins claiming a 6-5 victory over the Trojans. Shane Zeile led the way for UCLA in that game with a 4-4 day while David Berg earned the win with 2.2 innings in relief.
THURSDAY AND FRIDAY’S GAMES TO BE TELEVISED LIVE
Thursday and Friday’s games will be nationally televised live by the Pac-12 Networks. Roxy Bernstein and JT Snow will have the call for both games. UCLA has made six appearances already on the Pac-12 Networks and will make 17 total appearances on the Pac-12 Networks this year. The Bruins will appear on ESPNU one more time after having their game at Arizona on April 12 televised live by the network. Eight of the 19 total TV appearances for UCLA will come at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
All three of UCLA's games vs. USC this weekend will feature a live audio broadcast online, free of charge, at uclabruins.com. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call live from Jackie Robinson Stadium. Fans can also follow all three games online through a live stats link, which provides pitch-by-pitch updates on uclabruins.com. Links can be found on the front page of uclabruins.com on the events calendar or on the 2014 UCLA Baseball schedule page.
A LOOK AT THE PAC-12 RACE
With every team in the Pac-12 now at least halfway through its conference season, things are heating up in the race for the Pac-12 crown. Washington is currently atop the Pac-12 standings with a 14-4 conference record while Oregon State is in second, 1.5 games back of the Huskies with an 11-4 record. Oregon sits in third place at 10-5, 2.5 games back of first, while UCLA is in fourth with a 9-6 record, 3.5 games out of first. The Bruins currently hold the same Pac-12 record that they did at this point in the Pac-12 season last year when they went on to tie a school record with 21 Pac-12 victories. UCLA’s final three weekend series of the year will come against Oregon State, Oregon and Washington respectively.
NO. 1 STARTER
Sophomore right-hander James Kaprielian will take the mound for the Bruins on Thursday night in the series opener. After earning freshman All-America honors from Perfect Game USA and Collegiate Baseball in 2013, Kaprielian has continued that success into 2014, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.12 ERA and a team-high 68 strikeouts. His 68 strikeouts are good for second-most in the conference and 30th-most in the nation. In addition, Kaprielian’s 2.12 ERA is the lowest amongst all UCLA starting pitchers (ninth-best in the Pac-12) and his 68 innings pitched leads all UCLA pitchers (fifth-most in the Pac-12). Kaprielian has also held opposing hitters to a .186 batting average against him, the fourth-lowest opposing average in the Pac-12, and has allowed two runs or less in eight of his 10 starts this season. In addition, Kaprielian has allowed only one run in his last 27.2 innings pitched and in his last four starts is 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA and 26 strikeouts.
GAME TWO STARTER
Junior left-hander Grant Watson will start game two of the series on Friday night for the Bruins. Watson is 4-5 in 10 starts this season, striking out 47 batters in 63.2 innings pitched while posting a 3.68 ERA. Additionally, his 47 strikeouts are the 10th-most in the conference. In his career, Watson has logged a 21-9 record as a starter and has pitched at least six innings in seven of his 10 starts this season.
STARTING THE SERIES FINALE
Sophomore right-hander Cody Poteet will start for the Bruins on Saturday afternoon in the series finale. Poteet served as UCLA’s midweek starter in 2013, posting a 4-6 overall record with a 4.84 ERA. He struck out 56 batters in 2013 and this past summer played with the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League, being selected as one of the league’s All-Stars. This season, he is 3-2 through 10 starts, logging an ERA of 4.44 while striking out 36 batters. He has also surrendered just six walks all season, the second-fewest in the conference, and has given up just one walk in his last 22 innings pitched. In his last start at Utah, Poteet gave up just three runs (two earned) on five hits in six innings pitched to pick up his third win of the season.
PLAYING FROM AHEAD
In the last two seasons, UCLA has done a tremendous job of getting an early lead and then not relinquishing that lead. The Bruins are a combined 44-13 when they score first in the last two seasons and since the start of 2013 are 59-1 when leading after the seventh inning. Additionally, UCLA has a record of 26-7 in the last two seasons when scoring in the first inning.
UCLA has finished among the top three in the Pac-12 Conference in each of the last eight seasons (2006-2013), the only Pac-12 team to have done so. Under John Savage, UCLA finished third from 2006 through 2009, before finishing second in 2010 and winning the confernece title in 2011 and 2012. Last season, UCLA finished third with a 21-9 Pac-12 record. Never before in school history has UCLA enjoyed an eight-year span with as many top finishes in the standings.
SWINGING THE BATS
Several Bruins have been swinging the bat well this season for the ballclub. Senior Brian Carroll is batting at a .282 clip so far, scoring a team-high 19 runs (tied with Zeile and Persico). Serving as the leadoff hitter in every game he has played, Carroll has posted a .400 on-base percentage and has hit safely in 18 of his last 25 games. He has also logged 10 multi-hit games on the season. Sophomore Ty Moore has hit safely in 18 of his last 26 contests and in Pac-12 play is batting .298 with a team-leading 12 runs scored. He has also logged seven RBI in conference play and a .404 slugging percentage. Moore has recorded 11 multi-hit games on the year as well. Finally, sophomore Christoph Bono leads the team with 21 RBI, five multi-RBI games (tied with Chatterton) and 10 doubles (eighth-most in the Pac-12) while sophomore Trent Chatterton has been on a tear as of late, batting .375 with a .423 OBP in his last seven games.
TAKING THE HITS
UCLA has done a remarkable job this season of reaching base via the hit by pitch. Overall, UCLA hitters have been hit 64 times in 38 games thus far, which is tied with Washington for the most in the Pac-12 and 20th-most in the country. Sophomore Ty Moore leads the Bruins individually with 12 hit by pitches, which is also good for third-most in the conference. Senior Brian Carroll and sophomore Christoph Bono are right behind Moore with 10 hit by pitches apiece. UCLA has had a batter get hit by a pitch in 16 of its last 18 games and has had a total of 38 batters get hit by a pitch in those 18 games. Last season, the Bruins drew 82 hit by pitches, the most in the Pac-12 Conference.
BEHIND THE PLATE
Junior catcher Shane Zeile continues to hit the ball well during the 2014 season. The Valencia, Calif. native leads the Bruins and ranks fourth in the Pac-12 with a .353 batting average. Zeile, who was named to the 2014 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, given out to the nation’s top collegiate catcher, has also logged a team-high 17 multi-hit games while leading UCLA with 53 total hits and a .424 on-base percentage (eighth-best in the Pac-12). His 53 hits rank fourth in the Pac-12 and he has also reached base safely 20 of his last 22 games. Additionally, Zeile is hitting .362 in his last 11 games and is batting a team-leading .328 with eight RBI and eight runs scored in conference play. Finally, he has recorded at least two hits or more in six of his last eight games. Behind the plate, Zeile has thrown out 14 attempted base stealers, tied for the most in the Pac-12 Conference.
UCLA’s pitching staff has picked up right where it left off in 2013 as the Bruins continue to string together great performances on the mound this season. UCLA as a team is holding opponents to a .228 batting average, the third-lowest in the conference. The Bruins have also allowed the fourth-fewest hits (284) in the Pac-12, fewest walks (91) and own the second-lowest ERA (2.83) and second-most strikeouts (276). The Bruins’ pitchers also own a WHIP of 1.09, the 11th-best in the nation. Additionally, UCLA’s bullpen has posted an ERA of 2.09 in 38 games this season while holding opponents to a .213 batting average. Max Schuh currently leads all UCLA pitchers with a 0.87 ERA in 24 relief appearances and has not allowed an earned run in his last 18 appearances (14 IP). The Bruins have also allowed three runs or less to the opposition in 15 of their last 24 contests and in the last two seasons are 60-4 when holding the opposing team to three runs or fewer.
HEAD COACH JOHN SAVAGE
Head coach John Savage was named the 2013 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, the ABCA and Perfect Game USA. By guiding the Bruins to their second straight College World Series last year, Savage became one of just 10 coaches all-time from the Pac-12 to lead their teams to back-to-back College World Series appearances. Additionally, Savage is one of just five coaches in college baseball history to have led his team to one CWS championship, produced a No. 1 MLB Draft pick and coached a Golden Spikes Award winner. Savage helped UCLA post an overall 49-17 record in 2013, marking the second-highest single-season win total in school history, and is UCLA’s all-time winningest postseason manager with 32 postseason victories. UCLA also matched a school record with 21 conference victories in 2013. Finally, Savage has guided the Bruins to the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons and has a winning percentage of .695 since 2010.