UT shortstop David Hamilton tags out UCLA's Nick Valaika at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on March 12, 2017. JOHN GUTIERREZ / FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Baseball

After a March sweep, Texas looks to beat UCLA again as NCAA regional begins

Posted June 1st, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Texas bested UCLA three straight times in Austin in March — 5-4, 5-2 and 10-5. But that was 41 games ago.
  • Texas' Nolan Kingham and UCLA's Garrett Canning, who started that 5-4 game, are expected to be Friday's starters.
  • UCLA, which has won six of its last eight games, has made three trips to the College World Series since 2010.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — As it heads to California this weekend, Texas must bypass the locals if it wants to extend its baseball season.

It won’t be hard for the Longhorns (37-22) and seeded second in the Long Beach regional, to find a scouting report for their first opponent, though.

Texas meets UCLA (30-25) on Friday evening in the opening game of the regional hosted by Long Beach State. Texas hasn’t faced the other two teams at the regional since 2005 (San Diego State) and 2007 (Long Beach State), but is very familiar with the Bruins, whom the Longhorns swept early this season in a three-game series in Austin — 5-4, 5-2 and 10-5. It was the Longhorns’  first sweep since 2015.

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This is also the first time since 2014 that Texas has met a regular-season opponent in the NCAA tournament.

“They’re probably a different team now, just like we are,” UT first baseman Kacy Clemens said. “We know who we’re up against. We have the scouting report, so hopefully we can execute like we did when we played them (in Austin).”

That March series gives Texas easy access to film of the Bruins. Earlier this week, however, the Longhorns weren’t putting much stock in those wins. In fact, senior outfielder Zane Gurwitz struggled to recall much about the sweep. That was 41 games ago.

“To be honest, I can’t remember at this point,” Gurwitz said. “It was so long ago. Too many games in my past; I can’t remember them all.”

UT’s Tate Shaw comes in for a fast slide at home plate for the Longhorn score during the baseball game between the UT Longhorns and the UCLA Bruins at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Sunday March 12, 2017. JOHN GUTIERREZ / FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texas has gone 25-16 since that series. The Longhorns were not ranked at the time, but were 19th in D1Baseball.com’s national poll this week.

The Longhorns traveled to Oklahoma City last week for the Big 12 tournament. Seeded sixth, Texas reached the championship game by besting higher-seeded Oklahoma (8-4) and TCU (9-3) as well as Kansas (5-4).

Texas dropped a 6-5 decision to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament finale on Sunday.  It was Texas’ 23rd one-run game this season; the Longhorns are 8-15 in those games.

“We know now it’s time to go,” Gurwitz said. “If we don’t show out, then we won’t be playing. Everyone is really starting to understand that.”

UCLA was 6-8 after that March series, but the Bruins recovered in time to grab one of the last four at-large bids for the NCAA tournament. UCLA, which has won six of its last eight games, has made three trips to the College World Series since 2010.

Nolan Kingham throws a pitch against Kansas State at UFCU Dish-Falk Field on Friday March 24, 2017. Daulton Venglar/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Led by junior right-hander Griffin Canning — a possible first-round pick in this month’s MLB amateur draft — UCLA has a 3.49 staff ERA that ranks 19th in the country. (Texas is ninth, at 3.20).  In Texas’ 5-4 win on March 10, Canning, who allowed six hits and three runs through seven innings, and Texas’ Nolan Kingham, who gave up one run and five hits through six innings, both received no-decisions.

Canning and Kingham are the projected starters for Friday’s rematch.

If Texas gets out of this regional, it would advance to play the winner of the Stanford regional in next week’s super regionals. The Longhorns went 1-3 in a four-game series at Stanford the week before the UCLA series. Two of those losses were decided after the eighth inning.

“When we play right, we can beat anybody in the country,” said Texas pitcher Morgan Cooper, who earned third-team honors on Collegiate Baseball’s All-America team on Thursday. “It’s exciting because we’ve played all those teams. It’s going to be fun.”

LONG BEACH REGIONAL

Friday-Sunday, Long Beach, Calif.

Friday: Game 1, Texas vs. UCLA, 6 p.m., ESPN2, 104.9; Game 2, Long Beach State vs. San Diego State, 10 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday: Game 3, Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 3 p.m., TV tba; Game 4, Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 9 p.m., TV tba

Sunday: Game 5, 3 p.m., TV tba; Game 6, 9 p.m.

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