USC vs UCLA - Brian Gadsby

UCLA closer Brian Gadsby. (Shotgun Spratling)

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Fitt: Takeaways From Dodgertown

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LOS ANGELES — Over the last half-decade, the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic has become one of the highlights of the early-season schedule, annually bringing together four quality programs over three days, culminating in a Sunday doubleheader at Dodger Stadium. Heading into the season, I was particularly excited about the 2016 field, which included three teams ranked inside the preseason top 15 (UCLA, Southern California and Mississippi State), plus an Oklahoma club that was in the mix for a preseason ranking as well.

All four clubs got off to somewhat sluggish starts, as the three ranked teams fell into the 20-25 range and Oklahoma dropped out of the Top 25 picture altogether heading into the tournament. But I walked away from the weekend feeling like the Bruins, Trojans and Bulldogs still have a chance to live up to preseason expectations. I’m a little more concerned about the Sooners, who went 0-2-1 on the weekend to fall to 4-7-1 on the year, but I was impressed enough with their pitching to retain a little optimism. Plenty more on those teams below.

The climax of the weekend was the final game Sunday at Dodger Stadium between UCLA and USC, which drew about 9,000 fans. That was down from the 15,000 or so that showed up for last year’s finale, but the threat of rainy weather (an empty threat, as it turned out) probably depressed attendance a bit. Still, the crowd was strong, and it was treated to a fun 14-inning game that featured outstanding bullpen work by both sides. UCLA eventually won 5-3 to finish an unbeaten weekend.

“I just thought it was a great day for Southern California baseball in a lot of ways,” said UCLA coach John Savage, who earned his 400th career win in the contest. “You have two quality programs competing against each other in an iconic stadium, a legendary ballpark. It was one for the ages, really, in terms of how well that game was played. You had two errors in 14 innings, one error on each team. So I thought it was pretty good baseball. They could have won the game several times, in the ninth or extra innings. But I’m very proud of our bullpen making pitches. I think a lot of guys grew up today.”


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