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Arizona baseball hosts UCLA in key Pac-12 series

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Arizona’s 6-game win streak came to an end Wednesday night at New Mexico, but the way a college baseball schedule works, it’s the games on the weekends that matter most.

The Wildcats are back home Friday for a 3-game series against UCLA, one of two Pac-12 opponents it didn’t win the series against in 2021. The other was Stanford, whom they just swept at Hi Corbett last weekend.

UCLA (13-7, 1-2) took two of three from the UA last March in Los Angeles during the opening weekend of conference play. Arizona went on to win its next six Pac-12 series on its way to claiming the outright conference title for the first time since 1992.

Arizona has won five straight Pac-12 games since dropping the league opener at Cal, with all three wins over Stanford producing late comebacks. UCLA, which was picked in the preseason to finish one spot behind Arizona in 4th place but still got two first-place votes, opened Pac-12 play by dropping two of three at home to rival USC.

UCLA has the top ERA in the conference, at 2.61, but the second-lowest batting average (.259). Its pitchers strike out more than 11 batters per nine innings, which could be a problem for an Arizona squad that strikes out nearly 10 times per game.

The Wildcats last took a series from the Bruins in 2018, sweeping them in Tucson. Another sweep here would match Arizona’s best 9-game start in Pac-12 play, which last happened in 2007.

Sophomore right-hander TJ Nichols (3-0, 2.40) is expected to start Friday’s opener at 6 p.m. PT, with lefty Garrett Irvin (2-1, 3.25) starting Saturday’s 6 p.m. PT matchup and righty Dawson Netz (2-0, 4.24) finishing things out Sunday at 12 p.m. PT.