UCLA baseball is going into the postseason with a huge target on its back.
The Bruins, who just finished one of their most successful regular seasons ever, received their first-ever No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament this morning. They will host the Los Angeles Regional starting on Friday, playing their first game at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) against Cal State Bakersfield.
The winner will advance to face either Ole Miss or Maryland, who play beforehand at 4 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
After missing the postseason entirely last year, UCLA (42-13, 22-7) set a new school record for conference wins this spring and clinched its third Pac-12 title in five years. It enters the field of 64 with the nation’s lowest ERA (2.16).
This is the fifth time in six seasons that the Bruins are starting the postseason at home, and the third time they have earned a top-eight national seed since 2010. Should they advance to host an NCAA Super Regional, they could very well face USC. The Trojans are playing in the Lake Elsinore Regional, in a four-team field that includes Virginia, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State.
The Tigers fell today in a 10-6 decision, one that followed UCLA’s 7-4 comeback win on Saturday. The No. 7 Bruins will open the WCWS on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. PT (ESPN2) against Pac-12 champion Oregon, which took two games in their regular-season series in April.
The No. 2 Bruins beat Oregon, 4-3, on Friday night, plating the go-ahead run on a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth inning. The victory moved them to 22-6 in Pac-12 play, setting a new school record for conference wins. UCLA won 21 league games on their way to the national title in 2013, as well as in 1986 and 1979.
A three-run third inning gave the Bruins an early 3-1 lead, but the Ducks tied the game with a series of singles in the eighth. UCLA shortstop Kevin Kramer drew a four-pitch walk against reliever Garrett Cleavinger to push his team ahead.
The team already clinched its third conference title in five years by sweeping Arizona last weekend, but it can still set more milestones. Two more wins to close out the regular season would give UCLA a 44-12 record. The Bruins’ best-ever regular season came five years ago, when they went 43-13 and reached the College World Series final.
The biggest transfer news of this college football offseason came earlier this week, when former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson transferred to Florida State.
The talented albeit turnover-prone passer will play immediately at FSU, after having submitting a list of 10 schools to the Fighting Irish’s compliance department as his potential destinations. That list, according to ESPN, also included Alabama, South Carolina and UCLA.
But the Bruins weren’t interested in the prospect of landing Golson as a graduate transfer, despite the fact that they are without a game-proven option to replace former three-year starter Brett Hundley.
» The Pac-12’s latest tax filings are out, and the Bay Area News Group’s Jon Wilner breaks down all the numbers. The conference distributed around $21 million to most members in the last fiscal year. But can the league keep pace with the SEC and Big Ten in the coming years?