UCLA hasn't been the picture of consistency thus far in the College World Series, but in order to advance for an opportunity to face No. 1 Arizona once again on Thursday, it's going to have to find a way to make the bats come alive against Florida State in an elimination game.
The Bruins take on the Seminoles on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) looking to bounce back from 4-0 shutout loss to Arizona. It's not a question of whether the Bruins' bats can get the job done—they proved they can when they laid a 9-1 beating on Stony Brook in their opening game—it's just a matter of whether they will.
There will be no room for error against a Seminoles team that has also proven it can light up the scoreboard with gusto. After dropping its opening match-up to Arizona 4-3, FSU bounced back with a 12-2 annihilation of Stony Brook.
Maybe the trend is just that Stony Brook has terrible pitching. Maybe Arizona's is unbeatable. Or maybe UCLA's and FSU's offenses are just having trouble hitting with any consistency.
Before the shutout, the Bruins averaged seven runs per game in six postseason contests. They know they have the offensive talent to hit on Tuesday, and there's no better time to show a little life than when your season is on the line, as it is now for both of these teams.
Playing with their backs against the wall, however, isn't something that scares the Bruins, who will look to Tuesday's game as an opportunity to prove that they deserve to be moving on.
Fortunately for UCLA, it boasts a team full of veterans who see a looming date with Arizona as the only motivation they need to take down FSU. If they beat FSU, they get to avenge the 4-0 shutout loss. That's all they want.
UCLA outfielder Beau Amaral told The Daily Breeze's Scott Rose:
When our backs are against the wall, I think that's when we play our best. We think we can play better under these circumstances—go out there and play with our hair on fire without any cushion. We know what happens if we keep winning, and that's all the motivation we need.
If there is one team that's going to be able to bounce back from a shutout with a resounding victory, it's this veteran squad. Veteran teams are able to move on the fastest from devastating losses because they know how to stay focused and how to avoid getting caught up in pressure and expectations. Veterans know how to keep their eyes on the prize.
If the Bruins do beat FSU, another opportunity against Arizona awaits. Then, the UCLA bats will truly have something to prove. Only FSU stands in the way of getting there.