UCLA coach John Savage probably is the only person left in college baseball who believes the Bruins have a chance to make the NCAA tournament and defend their national championship.
“I might be dreaming,” Savage said Monday after returning to Los Angeles from Oregon State, where his team was swept over the weekend.
The Bruins (23-25-1, 10-14) are 1-9-1 in their last 11 games and head into the final two weekends of the regular season in eighth place in the Pac-12 and with an RPI in the 100s. Their remaining three-game series are at home against third-place Oregon and at second-place Washington, a consensus top-five team.
“We’re 10-14, but what happens if we finish 16-14?” Savage said. “It’s unlikely it’ll happen, but let’s just say it does. Then we’re sitting there with 29-30 wins. So we don’t feel like we’re out of it. People probably think we are. We’re not in any NCAA bracket projections. That’s for sure. And we shouldn’t be.”
If the Bruins had a charmed existence in 2013, they’ve been cursed in 2014.
Last year they overcame a lack of offense with the timely hit, dominant pitching and strong defense. This year they’ve been unable to overcome a run of injuries that have kept right fielder Eric Filia and shortstop Kevin Kramer out, limited second baseman Kevin Williams to the designated hitter’s role, and forced center fielder Brian Carroll and third baseman Chris Keck to miss time. Star reliever David Berg hasn’t pitched for the better part of a month because of a bicep strain.
“That’s been the story of our season,” Savage said. “We’ve had a different lineup just about every game and have played a lot of guys who have little experience, so we’re treading water.”
A look around the country:
ROAD WARRIORS: ACC-leading Miami’s sweep of Duke marked its fourth straight conference road sweep and extended the Hurricanes’ nation-best road winning streak to 15 games. The Hurricanes (38-14, 22-5) won their 12th one-run game with Sunday’s 4-3 victory. Miami has won 25 of its last 27.
POKES ON ROLL: Oklahoma State (38-13, 16-5) goes into the last week of the Big 12’s regular season with a one-game lead over TCU. The Cowboys, who have won nine straight, defeated Kansas State 17-5 Sunday in a game shortened to seven innings by the mercy rule. Their 17 runs tied a season high and were their most against a Big 12 opponent since they put up 19 against Nebraska in 2008.
BIG TEN CHAMPS: Indiana clinched a share of its second straight Big Ten regular-season championship with its 9-2 win over Penn State on Sunday. The Hoosiers (35-12, 19-2) set a school record for regular-season conference wins. Sam Travis homered in each of the three games against the Nittany Lions and leads the Big Ten with 10.
FANTASTIC FINISHES IN SEC: Four of Sunday’s five games in the SEC were won in walk-off fashion. South Carolina beat Missouri in the bottom of the ninth, Mississippi defeated Georgia and Kentucky beat Auburn in 10 innings and Mississippi State defeated Tennessee in the 12th. There was drama in the other game, too, as Texas A&M scored in the top of the 10th to win at Arkansas.
LAFAYETTE ALL THE RAGE: With its sweep of South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette (46-7, 23-4 Sun Belt) set a school record for wins against Division I opponents. The Ragin’ Cajuns are winning with one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. They’re third nationally with 56 home runs, and they’re averaging 7.9 runs a game.
COLUMBIA IS IN AGAIN: Columbia (27-17) became the first team to make the NCAA tournament with its sweep of Dartmouth in the best-of-three Ivy League championship series. The Lions are in the tournament for the second straight year and third time since 2008. David Speer’s nation-leading scoreless innings streak ended at 23 when Dartmouth scored in the first in the opener.