UCLA Baseball Opens Postseason Play Today Versus North Carolina
Although the Tar Heels' overall resume is not great, their starting pitcher versus the Bruins is very, very good.
The UCLA baseball team (35-18) starts postseason play today in Lubbock, Texas versus the North Carolina Tar Heels (27-25). First pitch is at 4 pm PT and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Before that, the hosts Texas Tech (36-15), will square off against Army (28-23). That game starts at noon PT and will also televised on ESPNU.
Let’s take a look at UCLA’s opponent today.
UCLA will face UNC today. The Tar Heels barely made the field as one of the “Last Four In.” The Tar Heels were the eighth of eight ACC teams to make it. Although their 27-25 record is not glamorous, they play in a tough conference and will be starting their very good Friday ace, Austin Love, against UCLA. More on him in the “Outlook” section below.
North Carolina is an average hitting team with a squad batting average of .259. Only two starters, Angel Zarate (.320, 6 HR, 32 RBI) and Justice Thompson (.312, 7 HR, 24 RBI) are hitting over .300. The rest of their starters are hovering around the .250 mark, give or take 15 points each way.
Outside of Love, UNC is a poor pitching team. Their team ERA is 4.99 and only reliever Gage Gillian stands out. Gillian has made 22 appearances, all in relief, and pitched 47 innings, second on the team to Love. His ERA is a very good 2.11.
UNC has scored 282 runs this season, while allowing their opponents to score 281. That is the definition of a .500 team but all bets are off because of the pitching matchup.
UCLA received a pretty good draw into the Lubbock Regional, but is facing a tough pitcher today in UNC’s Austin Love (9-4, 3.68 ERA). Love is a workhorse.
He has started more than twice the number of games of the next Tar Heel. He has more than double the innings pitched and double the strikeouts of the next North Carolina pitcher on the staff. He is their ace and really has been the only consistent starter on their staff. Love owns 1/3 of North Carolina’s wins. It is a tough match up for the Bruins and I think it is more than fair to say that, without Love, UNC would not be in the postseason.
UCLA is expected to counter with Jesse Bergin (6-3, 4.24 ERA). This is a curious choice.
But I get it. Usual Friday starter Zach Pettway has been very inconsistent this year, although he pitched well last week in a blowout win over ASU. UCLA Head Coach John Savage is likely trying to save the best starter on the staff this season, Sean Mullen (9-1, 3.19 ERA) for a possible matchup against Texas Tech on Saturday.
Bergin has been inconsistent, but not as inconsistent at Pettway. Plus, Bergin has won his last two starts and pitched pretty well in both, especially his seven scoreless innings last week against the Sun Devils.
Today’s game and, more specifically, the pitching matchup, is critical to UCLA’s chances of advancing. If the Bruins can somehow get to Love, I like their chances of advancing through this regional.
NCAA Baseball Lubbock Regional, Day 1
When: Friday, June 4, 2021
Where: Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Stadium, Lubbock, TX
Tx Tech - Chase Hampton, RHP, Fr. (3-0, 3.63 ERA)
Army - Anthony LoRicco, RHP, Jr. (4-1, 4.68 ERA)
This is your Lubbock Regional games one and two preview.