Baseball looks for first Conference series win of the season as they host UCLA

Series will take place Friday-Sunday during family weekend



WSU baseball team cheers on their teammates from the dugout during an NCAA baseball game against Southern Indiana, Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

WSU baseball, who currently sits eighth in the Pac-12 Conference, have their hands full this weekend as they host the UCLA Bruins for a three-game series starting Friday.

The first pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Bailey-Brayton Field.

All time, the Cougs are 19-50 against the Bruins. The last time these teams matched up was in the middle of May 2022 when the Bruins swept the Cougs in Los Angeles. The Bruins are currently on a five-game winning streak against the Cougs and have won 12 of the last 13.

The last Conference series the Cougs played this season was last weekend as the Cougs got swept by the USC Trojans in Los Angeles.

“Five-game homestand, excited about it,” head coach Brian Green said.

WSU has failed to win a Pac-12 game in their last five tries. After defeating the Oregon Ducks in the first game of the series the Cougs failed to close their final two games and lost the series. Against the Trojans, WSU fell apart offensively, only managing seven runs in three games.

“Everybody’s good, everybody’s got a guy,” Green said regarding the Pac-12 teams this season.

Pitching for the Cougs is led by Caden Kaelber and Dakota Hawkins. Kaelber is currently fourth in the Conference with 40 strikeouts while Hawkins is third with 41.

Chase Grillo, who has not racked up saves as of late, has been brilliant when his name has been called to close games. He leads the Pac-12 with five saves on the season. The Cougs need to get a lead early and hold it throughout the game to allow Grillo to come in and do what he does.

Through the struggles the Cougs are currently in, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, as the Cougs are going through their first bump in the road.

On the season, the UCLA Bruins are 16-6 and 6-3 in Conference play.

Like the Cougs, the Bruins started their season hot, winning their first four games. They swept Omaha in three games, scoring 47 runs and allowing only two runs.

After a victory against Pepperdine, the Bruins got their first loss of the season as they were shut out 6-0 by Vanderbilt.

In the Southern California College Baseball Classic, the Bruins won all three games they played in, including a 5-3 victory against the Trojans.

The first Conference series for the Bruins this season was against the Oregon Ducks when UCLA bounced back after losing the first game to win the series two games to one. The next Pac-12 matchup was a sweep against the Arizona Wildcats.

The Bruins’ lone Conference series loss so far this season came at the hands of the Washington Huskies, who took two-of-three off the Bruins. UCLA was shutout in the second game 3-0, then lost the final game Sunday 11-10.

Coming into the series Kyle Karros, Duce Gourson and JonJon Vaughns lead the Bruins. Karros has 28 hits for 21 RBIs and four homers. He is batting .364 so far this season. Gourson is batting .338 with 27 hits and 22 RBIs. Vaughns leads the team with eight homers, he also has 17 hits for 21 RBIs.

Pitching for the Bruins is led by Kelly Austin, Jake Brooks and Alonzo Tredwell. Austin has pitched 32.2 innings so far and has racked up 39 strikeouts so far. He has allowed seven runs on 26 hits. Brooks has pitched 32.1 innings and has an ERA of 3.90 after allowing 15 runs on 29 hits. Tredwell has 31 strikeouts in 25 innings of work so far. His ERA is 2.52 and he has allowed seven runs on 19 hits.

If the Cougs want to earn their first home Conference series win of 2023, the offense needs to be consistent. No matter how good the pitching and defense can be, the offense scores the runs to create leads that allow the pitching to close games.

“The team is a really fun team to coach,” Green said.

After the UCLA series, the Cougs will host BYU Monday for one game. The first pitch will be at 12:05 p.m. at Bailey-Brayton Field.