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Diamond Ducks Face Pivotal Weekend In LA

Bruins to Provide Tough Test for Both Squads

Baseball @ UCLA - Friday 6:00 pm, Saturday 2:00 pm, Sunday Noon - Friday and Sunday games on Pac-12 Insider, Saturday on UCLA Livestream - 3

Softball @ UCLA - Friday 7:00 pm, Saturday 7:00 pm, Sunday Noon - All games available on Pac-12 Networks

Oregon’s baseball and softball teams head to Los Angeles this weekend to face off against the UCLA Bruins. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in baseball, and an Oregon sweep in softball would move Oregon into 2nd place in the Conference.

BASEBALL – The Ducks took on San Francisco in a mini-mid-week series Tuesday and Wednesday. Oregon won the first game 15 – 5 in a dominating performance in which they scored ten runs in their half of the first inning. Oddly, the remainder of the game was even (5 – 5) and Wednesday’s game was a very competitive affair, in which Oregon needed a run and a favorable call in the bottom of the 11th inning to win the game 4 – 3. Oregon used 5 pitchers in the Tuesday game with Christian Ciuffetelli (1-2) notching the win and Rio Britton coming on for the final 3 innings to record the save. In the longer Wednesday game, Oregon went with six pitchers, and Matt Dallas (2-1) got the win while pitching the last 3.2 innings. It’s amazing that, after the top of the first on Tuesday these two teams played 19 innings and Oregon prevailed over that time by just one run.

Oregon comes into the UCLA series at 18 – 7 overall and 7 – 2 in the Pac-12. The Ducks have shown explosive if a bit inconsistent offensive capabilities and have proven very hard to stop once they get their bats rolling. Oregon’s relief pitching gave up only 2 runs in the entirety of the USC series while the starters gave up 17. The pre-season view was that Oregon’s starting pitching would be strong and any concerns were confined to the bullpen. Nevertheless, Oregon has won 8 of its last 9 games.

UCLA – The Bruins are 16 – 8 overall, but only 3 -3 in the Pac-12. UCLA lost their series to USC 2 games to 1 before taking 2 of 3 from Arizona in Tucson. In general, the Bruins have not shown the kind of offensive ability Oregon has. The Bruins typically, if not exclusively, score in single digits and have also shown quite a bit of inconsistency in plating runs. For example, in their 3-game series against Harvard in mid-March, UCLA won the first game 25 – 2, but were then shut out 5 – 0 in the second game and won only 3 – 2 in 11 innings in the third. The Bruins have scored 138 runs for an average under 6 runs per game.

The lower offensive production shows up in the UCLA statistics. The Bruins have no regular players hitting even .300, which is unusual. Graduate student outfielder Kenny Oyama leads the team at .284 with Freshman infielder Ethan Gourson right behind at .282. The Bruins have hit only 14 home runs in 24 games, led by Freshman Cody Shrier’s five. Gourson and Schrier lead the team with 19 RBIs each, accounting for over one quarter of the Bruins offensive production. The Bruins have stolen 44 bases with Oyama having one third of the team’s steals.

Pitching and defense are UCLA’s strengths. Oregon can’t count on too many UCLA mistakes – the Bruins average only about 1 error per game. Gourson has made 6 of the team’s 27 errors. UCLA’s staff ERA is only 2.48. The Bruins have primarily used 4 pitchers to start games. Freshman right-hander Thatcher Hurd (2-0 record) leads the team with a 1.07 ERA in his 5 starts. He has good company, however, in Sophomore right-hander Jake Brooks (4-2, 6 starts, 2.09 ERA), and Sophomore right-hander Max Rajcic (2-3, 6, 2.92). Redshirt Freshman Kelly Austin (1-1, 6, 3.38) rounds out the regular starters. The Ducks may also see Freshman southpaw Ethan Flanagan, who has started just one game and has come on frequently in relief. He has struck out 36 batters in 24.1 innings while walking only 6. Hurd has struck out 48 in 33 innings while walking only 9. As a team the Bruins have issued only 62 walks in 218 innings. UCLA has a comparative wealth of left-handed pitching that they’ve used in relief. The Bruins staff looks strong and could provide the strongest challenge Oregon’s hitters have faced so far this season.

SOFTBALL – The Ducks come into the weekend series against the Bruins off a disconcerting 2-1 series victory over Cal. Oregon is 24 – 5 overall, and 4 – 2 in the Pac-12, sitting in third place, trailing both UCLA and Arizona State, who are 6 – 0 in Conference. The Ducks will face the Sun Devils in Eugene beginning April 8. Good results this weekend and next could see the Ducks surge into the Conference lead.

Although Oregon won the Cal series, they lost their first game by run rule since 2019 in the Friday tilt, and then had to overcome Cal leads in both weekend games to win close contests. The Ducks performance felt like a step backwards. It’s possible the absence of Oregon Head Coach Melyssa Lombardi due to Covid protocols was a distraction. Lombardi’s return to the team had not been announced at press time.

UCLA – The Bruins are likely to provide the stiffest test for Oregon since their early games in the Mary Nutter Classic against Northwestern and Missouri, both of which Oregon lost in close contests. UCLA comes into the series with an overall record of 28 – 3. Their only losses have been to national powerhouse Oklahoma 4 – 1, Northwestern 6 – 4 (8 innings) and Florida State 4-3 (8 innings), all in February. UCLA have beaten Baylor and Missouri. Oregon won 2 of 3 from Baylor in Texas. In Pac-12 play, the Bruins swept Arizona and Washington by a combined score of 27 – 6. Washington failed to score even a single run playing UCLA in Seattle.

The Bruins are averaging 7.5 runs per game, slightly more than Oregon, and have seven regular players hitting over .300, led by Kinsley Washington at .425 and Briana Perez at .398 – both are Redshirt Seniors. Redshirt Sophomore Maya Brady leads the Bruins with 9 home runs, while Perez and Redshirt Senior Delanie Wisz have 7 each. All these players have at least 24 RBIs and are joined by Freshman Savannah Pola, who has 30 RBI while hitting .367. UCLA has been successful on 43 of 51 steal attempts while holding opponents to just 5 stolen bases on the season.

The Bruins are fielding at a .978 clip, almost identical to Oregon. UCLA has two regular starters in the circle, Redshirt Junior Megan Faraimo (1.34 ERA) and Redshirt Senior Holly Avezado (1.11 ERA). They have handled 14 and 13 starts, respectively. Faraimo has allowed more hits and runs, but has pitched 99.1 innings to Avezado’s 63.0. Graduate student Lauren Shaw (0.45 ERA) has 3 starts and has pitched 31 total innings. Faraimo and Avezado have struck out 264 batters while walking only 30.

This could be a great, exciting series if Oregon brings its “A” game. The Bruins are an experienced, veteran team with plenty of Senior leadership and their pitching looks tough. Oregon’s hitting and pitching are going to have to be at their best to be successful.

Hang with ATQ for this exciting weekend of Oregon Diamond Ducks action!