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Texas baseball takes on wounded UCLA in Los Angeles

The Longhorns need to travel to Jackie Robinson Stadium with a do-or-die attitude after dropping all four games at home last weekend against Cal.

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The Longhorns head to Jackie's alma mater for a weekend series.
The Longhorns head to Jackie's alma mater for a weekend series.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA Bruins came into the 2016 college baseball season looking to rebound after a dismal end to their 2015 campaign. UCLA was a Top 8 national seed that lost a tough regional to 3-seed Maryland. D1Baseball.com pegged the Bruins as their #11 team in their preseason rankings, but UCLA has struggled mightily in all facets of the game in 2016.

On the positive side for UCLA, senior outfielder Eric Filia is hitting .404, junior outfielder Kort Peterson is hitting .349, starting pitcher Griffin Canning has turned in a trio of quality starts, and relievers Moises Ceja and Scott Burke have been solid.

On the negative side, UCLA is hitting .247 as a team, slugging .334, average 1.7 errors a game, have an ERA of 5.32 and an opponent batting average of .269.

UCLA's biggest problem so far this year is a failure to get any type of quality starting pitching outside of Canning. The rest of the UCLA starters are averaging just a shade over 3 innings with an ERA over 9. (Not a typo.) Now, some of that is due to shorter declared midweek starts, but only Canning has thrown more than 5 innings in a start this season. As a result, UCLA has had to rely on multiple relievers numerous times. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes it has failed.

The Bruins began their year dropping two of three games at home to a pretty good UNC team, took two of three the following weekend against a solid Cal Poly opponent, and swept the trio of Mississippi State (good), Oklahoma (sucks) and USC (struggling this year) last weekend at home.

When UCLA has lost this year they have lost big. All six losses have come by four or more runs including Tuesday's 20-12 (!) drubbing at the hands of Cal State Northridge.

The Texas Longhorns have the opportunity to get the 2016 season on track against a beatable UCLA opponent before facing Tulane next weekend. Per the below advanced stats, Texas is basically the same club it was last year through 13 games.

ho Batting Average ERA WHIP OPS BB/9 K/9 Hitter K/9
2016 Total .258 3.26 1.26 .731 3.54 7.58 7.58
Change from 2015 -0.23% -0.43% -1.34% -4.46% +10.56% +18.62% +3.79%

It's nice from an analytical perspective when the advanced  stats and the "eye test" match up, and that's the case for the Longhorns so far this year. Watching this team up to this point gives a depressing sense of "same old same old, maybe slightly worse," and it's not like the stats provide any sort of "well, actually..." type of rejoinder.

Pitching is on track, but the offense remains this program's Achilles heel. Most disconcerting is the big jump in strikeouts -- which is partially offset by the Horns getting on base via the walk a bit more often, but not entirely. This weekend provides an opportunity in the form of the struggling UCLA pitching staff, and Texas may have picked up some confidence in putting up 12 on Sam Houston last Tuesday. Either the UCLA pitchers or the Texas hitters should come out of this series with improved self-worth; for the other team, the series may be confirmation that a long season awaits.

Game times from Jackie Robinson Stadium (all Central) are 8 p.m. CT tonight, 4 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Pitching match-ups via TexasSports.com:

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY: UT RHP Kyle Johnston (1-1, 3.18) vs. UCLA RHP Griffin Canning (2-0, 1.74)

SATURDAY: UT LHP Ty Culbreth (2-1, 1.71) vs.  UCLA TBA

SUNDAY: UT RHP Connor Mayes (0-1, 1.93) vs. UCLA RHP Kyle Molnar (0-1, 6.23)

This is your open thread. No TV for these ballgames, so tune in on the radio for free.