Canceled game is opportunity lost for UCLA

May, 17, 2011
5/17/11
8:19
PM PT
LOS ANGELES--UCLA and Cal State Fullerton wrote another chapter in their budding Southern California college baseball rivalry Tuesday night and the teams never even took the field.

About 30 minutes before the first pitch Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, sparks flew from an electrical box causing the lights to go out in three of the eight light standards and forcing officials to cancel the game.

It deprived about 700 fans of the opportunity to see an anticipated matchup between teams that have faced off in the postseason in three of the last four years -- twice with a berth in the College World Series on the line.

But it also deprived a sputtering UCLA squad of an opportunity to get a quality win, re-establish itself as a national power and get back on the radar for hosting an NCAA regional come playoff time. No. 21 UCLA (29-19) lost three of five games last week, all against unranked teams, and was looking to make a bit of a statement against No. 10 Fullerton (36-14).

"We're fighting for postseason seedings and hosting a regional and the whole deal," UCLA coach John Savage said. "We need to win as many games as we can to get as high a seed as we can, so when you have the opportunity to play Fullerton and it gets canceled, it’s just disappointing."

Despite the fact that these teams have built quite a recent history with meetings in the 2007 and 2010 Super Regionals and the 2008 regionals, it seemed as if someone, somewhere didn't want them to play on Tuesday. First, overnight rains threatened to wash out the game, then a beekeeper had to be called in to remove a swarm of bees that took up residence in the stands behind home plate about 90 minutes before first pitch.

Then, the final electrical blow finally took the game off the schedule.

Savage said they would discuss rescheduling it, but with only this week and next week remaining in the regular season, the chances are slim the game will be played.

"Our window is getting smaller and smaller," Savage said.

UCLA has only seven regular-season games left and all are against quality opponents. The Bruins, tied for second in the Pac-10, face fourth-place California (28-16) in a critical three-game series this weekend.

Next Tuesday, the Bruins head south to play No. 16 UC Irvine (34-13) and then finish the regular season at No. 12 Arizona State (36-13). The Bruins and Sun Devils are currently tied for second place in the Pac-10 and Savage said finishing first or second has hitorically paid dividends in the postseason.

"The top two historically have hosted a regional," Savage said. "The years we've finished third, we were a two seed at someone else's place. The year we finished second we hosted as a one seed and ended up in Omaha. So the importance of hosting is critical."

With such a back-loaded schedule, the Bruins are looking at the last two weeks of the season as the beginning of the postseason. They currently have an RPI of 47 which is probably not good enough to be a regional host site, but Fullerton's RPI is 13, California is No. 34, UC Irvine is No. 46 and Arizona State is No. 7 meaning the Bruins could move up significantly with a strong finish.

The electrical failure Tuesday night deprived the Bruins of one of those opportunities.

"This is a pretty big game to have canceled," Savage said. "We’re kind of making this a postseason atmosphere with these last eight games. It’s a strong way to finish the season and it makes it that much more disappointing that we weren’t able to get this one in."

Notes: UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland was at Jackie Robinson Stadium hoping to catch the game with Cal State Fullerton basketball coach Bob Burton. ... Infielder Tyler Rahmatulla, who hasn't played since March 27 because of an academic issue, was officially suspended for the remainder of the season because of an academic issue.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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