The 2009 College Baseball season is underway, and two local schools are looking to stamp their tickets to Omaha to play in the College World Series.

Coming off its third consecutive postseason appearance (longest streak in school history), UCLA hopes to keep the streak alive. A preseason No. 12 ranking by Baseball America gives the Bruins high expectations for 2009. However, UCLA also has one of the toughest schedules in school history.

Five seniors and 10 juniors anchor this team, including pitchers Brendan Lafferty, Gavin Brooks and Charles Brewer, along with power hitters Gabe Cohen and Casey Haerther. With nearly a dozen returning pitchers, UCLA has one of the deepest staffs in the nation.

The Bruins also have a balance of youth and experience – with a promising recruiting class of eight freshmen joining more than 20 returning players from last year’s successful team, UCLA is poised to return to the postseason in 2009. Expect the Bruins to qualify for the Super Regionals.

Across town, the Trojans are in a rebuilding phase and are expected to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10. In a preseason coach’s poll, USC was picked to finish seventh in conference. However, the Trojans have enough promise to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Shortstop Grant Green, a Baseball America preseason First Team All-American, headlines five returning starters. A career .351 hitter, Green is a consistent threat near the top of the lineup.

Despite losing two starting pitchers, USC boasts three worthy returning hurlers in Brad Boxberger, Anthony Vasquez and Kevin Couture.

USC has a favorable home schedule and a fair amount of depth and veteran experience to improve upon last season’s 28-28 record, though title No. 13 is out of reach.

USC hosts UCLA March 21 at Dedeaux Field.