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UCLA’s focus is on Gonzaga — and itself — as it begins regional play

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UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf turns a double play against California on March 25, 2017.
(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Coach John Savage doesn’t want to talk about Minnesota. Not yet, anyway.

His UCLA Bruins baseball team could end up playing the Golden Gophers, the No. 14-overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament and host of the Minneapolis regional, where the Bruins open Friday at 11 a.m. PDT against Gonzaga. But for now, Savage’s focus is entirely on the Bulldogs (32-22) and on the Bruins.

“We wanna be who we are as quickly as we can,” he said, “and we think that’s good enough.”

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The other teams in the regional all have something UCLA doesn’t. The top-seeded Golden Gophers (41-13) won the Big Ten; fourth-seeded Canisius (35-20) is champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; and third-seeded Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference tournament.

UCLA finished fourth in the Pac-12 Conference, but the Bruins’ 36-19 overall record is their best regular-season mark since 2015 and included 19 wins during league play against a contingent of teams that sent four to regionals.

UCLA is among them, thanks largely to a trio of sophomores. Outfielder Jeremy Ydens (.362), second baseman Chase Strumpf (.357) and first baseman Michael Toglia (.330) are the only Bruins hitters batting over .300 and they’ve driven in 41% of UCLA’s runs.

“We have some really good young players,” Savage said.

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Regardless of who drives in the runs, gets the hits or makes the pitches, though, he thinks his team is ready, whether against Gonzaga, Canisius or Minnesota.

“We’re excited to be in Minnesota and get after it,” he said.

ethan.bauer@latimes.com

@ebaueri


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