The UCLA Bruins aren’t exactly in the ideal setup after losing to Arizona 4-0 on Sunday night, but there is no need to panic.
When they face Florida State on Tuesday, they will do so knowing their season is on the line.
They have to beat the Seminoles, then Arizona twice to advance—something they are more than capable of doing.
They ran into a buzz saw that was Konner Wade on Sunday, who they had tagged earlier in the year.
He was simply on fire, and the Bruins can’t allow their confidence to be rattled. The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak and, as Bruins manager John Savage put it, it’s all about taking it in stride (via Daily News):
"It's all about taking blows at the College World Series. It's not a dagger; it's a blow. We'll move on and we'll be ready to play on Tuesday night."
The Bruins simply had a bad day at the plate. It happens.
UCLA entered Omaha as the No. 1 ranked team in the NCAA Baseball RPI standings because of their brilliant mixture of hitting depth and pitching.
Led by Jeff Gelalich, the Bruins have five players in their starting lineup who hit over .300 during the season. Sunday was an odd off-night for a team that excels in stretching pitch counts and fouling off offerings until they find the right one.
What makes me think they can win the next three games is their talent from top to bottom in the lineup.
In their win over Stony Brook, seven of their nine starters recorded at least one hit. They have a very versatile and well-rounded lineup that’s never going to get stuck in a prolonged slump.
The starting pitching is still the best in the group, led by Adam Plutko.
While No. 2 starter Nick Vander Tuig may have been tagged for four runs in one inning against Arizona, he put up zeros in every other frame. The bullpen has yet to give up a single run in 3.2 innings of work in the College World Series.
As for the competition in front of them?
The Florida State bullpen is not reliable, and their starters are only a tad better. Their sluggers on offense are prone to striking out, and they don’t have much off the bench. UCLA is clearly the more talented team.
Assuming UCLA survives Florida State, it’s a rematch with Arizona. The Wildcats may be able to match the Bruins' pitching, but has weak links in their lineup and a defense that is much more error prone.
Bottom line is that Arizona took advantage of a surreal effort from one of their starters.
There is no question that UCLA earned the No. 1 seed because of how well-rounded they are. Being forced to win three games in a row is not going to derail this bunch.
I’m still picking UCLA to advance from their group in the College World Series.
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