UCLA trips to Oxford for three-game set

UCLA has played a potent early-season schedule thus far in 2007, and that trend adds another chapter with a three-game set in Oxford to face the No. 16 Rebels (11-4) this weekend.

The No. 23 Bruins are only 7-7 on the young season, although five of those defeats came at the hands of Miami (Fla.) and Cal-State Fullerton, who have each won a national title this decade. Miami swept UCLA in Coral Gables, Fla., while the Titans took two of three in a home and home weekend tilt.

"We had a schedule that was ranked the hardest or second hardest by Boyd's World last year, and this year's is cut from the same cloth," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "Miami was the first road test, and this weekend against Ole Miss will be more of the same. It is games like this that will have us ready for Pac-10 play."

The weekend set finalizes a two-year deal between the prominent baseball programs. Ole Miss traveled to Westwood and dropped two of three last season. The Bruins also knocked off the Rebels 5-2 in 1969.

"We know a little about Ole Miss from the series last year, but that doesn't mean much," Savage said. "And, of course, we watched them in the super regionals last season."

UCLA is hoping to get several things out of the weekend that will prepare them not only for conference play but also for the postseason.

"We have to leave L.A. on a plane at 5 a.m. and travel across the country," Savage noted. "That is a postseason type situation, plus Ole Miss has been a major player in the SEC for several years now. We are expecting a pumped-up crowd in a regional-type environment. The atmosphere has looked impressive on television."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco shares Savage's sentiments and looks forward to a weekend with the feel of big-time baseball.

"It is going to be exciting," Bianco said. "There will be big crowds and great weather. I look for an SEC-series feel to the weekend. They are an out of conference opponent that is ranked in the top-25 from a high-profile league. It's a good series to play a week before the league schedule begins."

The opener on Friday (6:30 p.m.) features a powerful pitching matchup between the Rebels' Will Kline (2-0) and the Bruins' ace Tyson Brummett (3-1). The UCLA senior is fresh off a win over Fullerton and was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for his performance. Brummett pitched seven innings in a victory over Ole Miss last season.

Kline hurled a gem of his own last weekend in a no decision against then-No. 5 Arkansas. The junior allowed two runs on four hits and eight strikeouts in seven innings of work.

The Bruins were unsure of their Saturday (1:30 p.m.) starter as of Thursday. Charles Brewer had been UCLA's Saturday pitcher, but the right-hander is recovering from mono and is limited most likely to relief work. Lance Lynn (1-2) will assume his regular role for Ole Miss where he has accumulated a microscopic ERA of 1.23.

The final game of the series Sunday (12 p.m.) pits the Rebels' Brett Bukvich (2-1) against Gavin Brooks (1-1). Bukvich has posted a 2.38 ERA in three starts; while Brooks averages four runs allowed per nine innings after four starts.

UCLA finished last season 33-25 and was eliminated from the Malibu, Calif., regional hosted by Pepperdine. The Bruins are picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10 in 2007 behind national champ Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford respectively.

"It should be a good series," Savage said. "We are excited, and these quality opponents do nothing but make us better."

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