The weekend is coming up, so John Savage is relaxed.
His feet are up – in cleats of course, but they might as well be sandals – and the pina colada is chilled and all is good for the UCLA baseball coach.
Sure, the Cal State Fullerton Titans have defeated his Bruins twice this season, and now UCLA hosts Fullerton in the NCAA baseball playoff Super Regionals, which begin at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
But those games were in the middle of the week, the Bruins less focused, less hungry, less prepared.
Now UCLA is working for the weekend, a three-game set to determine its future College World Series plans, a trip to Omaha to the victor.
“Everybody feels different on the weekend,” Savage said. “We played two good ballgames against them this year, and they’ve come out on top in both games, but the weekends are a completely different environment. A different mindset as a team, Friday to Sunday, winning a series. It’s a grind, it’s a three-game grind, and we think that’s what this is going to be.”
Having Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen on the hill won’t hurt.
The three combined for a 30-7 record and 374 strikeouts in 300 2/3 innings, but will face a lineup that features two first-round picks.
“Being tested like that throughout the year, every team we played was top-of-the-line situations,” said Bauer, who is expected to pitch on Saturday. “We’re not going to see anything we haven’t seen all year. Just the experience of being in it before and knowing we’ve been successful in games like that (helps).”
But the two losses to the Titans do creep up in Bruin minds, as does the team’s traditional lack of success against the SoCal counterparts.
“For whatever reason, we have not been able to crack that nut,” Savage said. “We’ve played a lot of games in the postseason against them, a lot of big games. Went to regionals there, went to a super regional there. I can’t really put my finger on it. I just think it’s a credit to them for being really good.”
But this is a different UCLA team and a different Fullerton team, and the Bruins know that.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say it did come into our minds,” Rasmussen said. “But this is the first year we’re focused on ourselves. This is definitely a different year and a different team mindset. We don’t think like were playing Fullerton, it doesn’t feel the same as it has the last couple years.”
And now that they’re playing on the weekend, it won’t even feel the same as this year.