Tuesday, May 22, 2012
UCLA impresses in midweek and on the road
By Peter Yoon
IRVINE, Calif.--If coach John Savage and the UCLA baseball team had any say in the matter, they'd like to move the entire college baseball season to Tuesdays.
And if they could play the games on the road, that would be even better.
The Bruins finished the midweek and road portions of their schedule with a 6-2 victory Tuesday at UC Irvine and ended the season a perfect 11-0 in Tuesday games and 20-4 away from home.
It's a testament to the tenaciousness of the No. 10 Bruins (39-14), who finish the regular season with a three-game series against USC Friday through Sunday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
"We just put high value on midweek games," Savage said. "In terms of RPI and total wins, they’re very important. They aren’t conference games, but at the end of the day, they are highly important and this year we took care of business."
These aren't cupcake teams the Bruins are scheduling on Tuesdays, either. Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine and UC Irvine are all traditional powers who have fallen victim to the Bruins in midweek games this season.
"It was nice to come out and get a win and finish it and go undefeated on Tuesdays," said shortstop Pat Valaika, who had two hits and two RBIs Tuesday. "It’s a testament to our team. We don’t take games off. We take every game like it’s our last. We don’t want to just give up any games. That’s not the way we play and we proved it by coming out every Tuesday and doing our thing."
Another thing the Bruins seem to do is win on the road, which might prove more important come NCAA tournament selection time. With a 19-4 road record and 1-0 neutral site record, the Bruins are among the top two in the nation with an .833 winning percentage away from home.
"That’s pretty impressive and all the credit goes to the players being ready and having discipline on the road," Savage said. "We just feel comfortable on the road. Some teams don’t, but I just feel like it’s a credit to our guys having and anytime, anywhere mentality."
The Bruins have played their last nine games on the road and have won eight of them, but now need that mentality at home. UCLA conclude the regular season this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium with quite a bit at stake. They are two games out of first in the Pac-12 title race, in the running to host an NCAA tournament regional and could also get a top-eight national seeding for the NCAA tournament. Oh, and they are playing the crosstown rival who would certainly like nothing better than to spoil those things for the Bruins.
"We’ve been embracing the fact that we’re playing on the road and I think we all thrive on it," said catcher Tyler Heineman. "But there is a lot of stuff going on this weekend and I think we just need to focus on our series with USC so we can continue to thrive at home."