Time: 2:30 PST
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The first of Cal's three game set finds the Bears badly needing a win after dropping their forth straight game to San Francisco on Tuesday. Cal sent their fourth starter to the mound while USF sent their ace and the Cal bats couldn't provide any punch in a 6-1 defeat.
Cal will face a much bigger challenge from UCLA. Erik Johnson will take on Gerrit Cole as Johnson looks to bounce back from a 3rd inning implosion against WSU. To find out just what the Bears are up against we went to Ryan from Bruinsnation who plays a big role in probably the best team college baseball coverage you'll find on SBnation. You can read about the UCLA perspective on the series here. Hit the jump for Ryan's answers to our questions and comment away in the game thread. Go Bears!
1 - The Bruins appear to have a very balanced lineup. What is the biggest offensive weapon UCLA has at its disposal?
There really isn't much of a specific weapon that powers the UCLA offense. The offense isn't spectacular by any means and after a hot start, has come back to norm. There isn't anyone with incredible power in the lineup and it's not an overly fast lineup. There isn't anyone hitting .400 or an all-around incredible hitter like you guys have in mark Canha. I guess the strength of the lineup is its depth. Everyone in the lineup brings something to the table and there have been plenty of games where the bottom of the order carried the top of the order. I mean, the number nine guy in the order, Steve Rodriguez, isn't hitting for a high average, but he has seven home runs. In front of him you have Niko Gallego, who is hitting only .273, but is tied for the team lead in runs scored and has stolen 19 bases in 20 attempts so there isn't anyone or any aspect of the UCLA lineup that is going to blow you away, but opposing pitchers will have to get all nine out because there aren't any breathers.
2- Your three projected starters all have pretty similar stats. Which UCLA pitcher this weekend should Cal fans fear the most?
Wow, this is a tough one and it depends on how you want to judge fear. If you had to stand in the batter's box, it's Gerrit Cole easily. He's a big right-hander who can run two-seamers in the mid-90's and has 98-99 mph when he feels like it to go along with improving off-speed pitches. From a pure stuff standpoint, he's the toughest. Trevor Bauer has 9,000,000 pitches and has been known to make up a pitch mid-game so trying to figure out what the heck is coming out of his hand is always a chore. Rob Rasmussen doesn't have the stuff of the above two, but he goes on Sundays against the other's team's worst starting pitcher and when you have Rasmussen vs. your worst guy, there should be come fear. I guess if I had to pick, I'd say Cole because nobody wants to face heat like that...ever.
3- How is UCLA's defense? Cal does a decent job of putting the ball in play - will those hits find holes?
It's a bit of a mized bag with the defense, but I'd call them above-average. The theme you see is guys that can catch the ball, but may not have the greatest range. With the exception of Brett Krill in right field, nobody has poor range, but there aren't many guys you'd classify as plus-range guys. Put the ball in play and you can sneak it by guys, but if the defense can get there and get a glove to it, you can chalk it up as an out.
4- Cal will be playing to feel 100% confident in a post-season spot. Does UCLA still have a shot at the Pac-10 title or are the Bruins just playing for seeding purposes right now?
I guess the Bruins still technically have a shot at the Pac-10 title, but realistically, no. Three games behind Arizona St. with six to play and not having the tiebreaker makes things near impossible. At this point, the Bruins are playing to get a national seed so they are not only hosting as a #1 seed in a Regional (which is all but guaranteed), but so they can be one of the top eight, host in the Super Regionals (assuming they win their Regional) and avoid the seven other national seeds until the College World Series. The key to securing that national seed is finishing second in the Pac-10, which is looking good, and improving their record versus the RPI top 50, which they can do down the stretch because their last seven games are all against teams in the top 50.