Baseball team releases 2011 schedule

There was a time when UCLA baseball head coach John Savage lived by Fresno State football coach Pat Hill's infamous "any team, any time, anywhere" ideology. Savage had no choice, really. He wanted his young players to gain experience in tough environments.

A quick look at UCLA's newly released 2011 schedule suggests that those times are gone.

UCLA, the national runner-up, will open with seven straight home games next February against San Francisco, Pepperdine and San Jose State. Not exactly your cream of the crop in college baseball. A trip to Nebraska appears to be the most daunting non-conference series, aside from your usually competitive Southern California midweek contests.

The schedule is a far cry from 2009, when Savage took his young squad to places such as Houston's Minute Maid Park (home of the highly regarded College Classic), Oklahoma and East Carolina -- on consecutive weekends. The Bruins played at Miami and at Mississippi in 2007.

"We pride ourselves on playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country, year in and year out," Savage said at the time. "That's how you improve as a program."

Savage clearly did that, leading the Bruins to a successful run through Omaha this past season. So, really, what else is there to experience? Where else is there to go?

UCLA is now considered one of the nation's elite teams and an early favorite to return to the College World Series. Savage's altered scheduling approach makes that task a little easier, though the Pac-10 Conference promises to be competitive once again.

One thing is clear: Teams should be fighting each other for the right to play the Bruins. Not the other way around.