UCLA pitcher Griffin Canning out for postseason with stress fracture

UCLA baseball earned its first-ever No. 1 overall seed on Monday, but a potential return trip to Omaha will come without one of their key players.

Starting pitcher Griffin Canning — who has been sidelined for more than two weeks — will likely miss the entire NCAA tournament with a stress fracture in his back, head coach John Savage said Tuesday. The freshman had been the Bruins’ Sunday starter for most of the season until he got injured warming up at Arizona State earlier this month.

“Griffin Canning being hurt is a blow,” Savage said. “There’s no doubt. … That one hurts, because I felt like he was a Sunday starter who was really a (No.) 1 or a 2.”

Canning (7-1, 2.97) has not pitched in a game since a 6-5 win over Gonzaga on May 3. He will not require surgery on the fracture, and is expected to be fully healthy by next season after rehab.

Redshirt sophomore Hunter Virant (0-1, 3.28) has started the last three Sunday games for UCLA, and could fill that role again in this weekend’s Los Angeles Regional. Midweek starter Cody Poteet and reliever Grant Dyer are also potential options.

This year’s Bruins have been one of Savage’s most balanced and consistent teams, but the pitching staff is again the biggest strength. UCLA leads the country with a 2.16 ERA. No other Division I team is below 2.33, and no other Pac-12 team is below 2.88.