In this storied rivalry between the two flagship institutions of higher learning in America’s second largest city, there is one particular sport where UCLA is, without a doubt, now dominant over their USC rivals; a sport where the Trojans ruled over the Bruins in Los Angeles for decades until this century.
The sport? One that is still considered by many to be the National Pastime despite the obsession over college and pro football that takes over the populace every fall:
UCLA solidified that once and for all this weekend, as the 8th-ranked Bruins ventured onto Dedeaux Field on the USC campus and proceeded to sweep their Trojan rivals, winning all three of their games by the scores of 2-1 on Friday night, 7-6 on Saturday, and 5-2 on Sunday afternoon.
Beating your heated rival in their house is something to rejoice over in and of itself, but UCLA’s coach, John Savage, has made something of a habit in beating ‘SC in recent years as this sweep, combined with the Bruins defeating the Trojans in the Dodgertown Classic on March 11 – UCLA has won three of four in that series – marks the second straight year that UCLA has swept USC on the diamond, the Bruins win streak over ‘SC now standing at eight.
And in another illustration of how the winds have changed 180 degrees from what it used to be in this baseball version of the Crosstown Rivalry, even though the Trojans still holds the all-time edge in games won by a large margin (252-130), UCLA has currently won 23 of the past 28 games over USC, dating back to the middle of the last decade.
Bruin pitcher David Berg deserves special mention as the closer saved all three of UCLA’s wins.
Berg now has a whopping 16 saves, breaking the school record set by Scott Griggs in 2012 and lowering his earned run average to a NCAA-leading 0.59!
No relief pitcher in Los Angeles has been this dominant since the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne from 2002-2004, when he saved an MLB-record 84 consecutive games and set the National League’s single season record for saves in 2003 with 55.
And on top of everything else, Berg has a 6-0 record!
The sophomore reliever is clearly the number one reason why the Bruins are where they are, as he’s the type of pitcher – at least to this point – where if UCLA has a lead going into the 9th inning, it’s over.
This sweep leaves UCLA at 37-15 overall and 20-7 in the Pac-12 Conference. The Bruins currently stand two games behind first place Oregon State with four games (three in the conference) to play as after a date with U.C. Santa Barbara, they close with three very important games in Palo Alto against Stanford.
Which, in turn, may well decide whether or not UCLA gets to host a regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Westwood and make the road to their third College World Series in the past four years that much smoother.
As for USC, who is on their third head coach in four seasons, at 19-33 and 10-17 in the Pac-12 their season will end after they face defending national champion Arizona in Tucson on May 26. It will be the eighth straight year that the Trojans have failed to make the post-season.
Considering that ‘SC has won more national championships in baseball than any other school with 12 – Texas and LSU are tied for second with six NCAA titles apiece – the mighty has surely fallen.
And these Men of Troy have fallen hard.
Make no mistake: it’s on the diamond where UCLA has the clear bragging rights in L.A., having completely turned the balance of power around after being second string to USC for so long.