Los Angeles, Calif. - The 19th-ranked UCLA Baseball team will hit the road for the first time this season to take on a trio of opponents at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic in Cary, N.C. The Bruins will square off against Notre Dame on Friday at 3:30 p.m. PT before taking on No. 6 North Carolina State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. PT. UCLA will conclude the tournament against Michigan at 9 a.m. PT on Sunday. All games will be played at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday, Feb. 28 - 3:30 p.m. PT
ND – Sean Fitzgerald, RHP, Sr. (2-0, 2.13)
UCLA – James Kaprielian, RHP, So. (1-1, 1.50)
Saturday, March 1 - 3:30 p.m. PT
NCSU – TBA
UCLA – Grant Watson, LHP, Jr. (1-1, 4.09)
Sunday, March 2 - 9 a.m. PT
MICH – Evan Hill, LHP, So. (0-0, 4.76)
UCLA – Cody Poteet, RHP, So. (0-1, 6.43)
UCLA VS. NOTRE DAME/NC STATE/MICHIGAN
UCLA and Notre Dame have met just three times on the baseball diamond with the Bruins winning two of those matchups. The two schools met at Jackie Robinson Stadium last season, where the Bruins defeated the Fighting Irish, 2-1, on a walk-off single by Eric Filia in the 10th inning. UCLA and North Carolina State also met last season, playing in the second game of the College World Series. The Bruins took down the Wolfpack, 2-1, behind seven strong innings from Nick Vander Tuig on the mound and two innings in relief from junior David Berg. Sophomore Christoph Bono made a huge catch in the eighth inning of that game to prevent NC State from scoring the tying runs. Overall, UCLA has an all-time record of 6-1 against the Wolfpack. Finally, UCLA and Michigan have only met twice with the Wolverines winning both of those matchups. The two schools last played each other at Jackie Robinson Stadium in 1999.
All three of UCLA's games In North Carolina this weekend will feature a live audio broadcast online, free of charge, at uclabruins.com. Tim Wilhelm will have the call live from the USA Baseball Complex in Cary. Fans can also follow all three games online through a live stats link, which provides pitch-by-pitch updates on uclabruins.com. Links can be found on the front page of uclabruins.com on the events calendar or on the 2014 UCLA Baseball schedule page.
STARTING OFF THE TOURNAMENT...
Sophomore right-hander James Kaprielian will take the hill for the Bruins on Friday against Notre Dame. Kaprielian served as an integral part of UCLA’s bullpen in 2013, making 34 relief appearances while posting a 1.55 ERA, two saves and 53 strikeouts in 40.2 innings pitched. For his efforts, he earned freshman All-America honors from Perfect Game USA and Collegiate Baseball. Through two starts this season, Kaprielian is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA, leading the Bruins with 16 strikeouts, which is also good for third-most in the Pac-12 so far.
Junior left-hander Grant Watson is slated to start Saturday’s contest for the Bruins against North Carolina State. As a sophomore in 2013, Watson went 9-3 with a 3.01 ERA, striking out 55 batters and walking just 16, the sixth-fewest in the Pac-12. He pitched particularly well in the postseason, winning both of his starts while not allowing a run in 13 combined innings. In addition, Watson was named to the 2013 NCAA Los Angeles Regional All-Tournament Team. Watson earned the win in UCLA’s 12-1 victory over Portland in his first start of the season before taking the loss in UCLA’s 8-0 defeat to Cal Poly. The Bakersfield, Calif. native has struck out 15 batters in 11 innings pitched thus far while surrendering four walks.
ROUNDING OUT THE ROTATION
Sophomore right-hander Cody Poteet will start the series finale vs. Michigan for the Bruins on Sunday. Poteet served as UCLA’s midweek starter in 2013, going 4-4 with a 4.69 ERA in 11 midweek starts while posting a 4-6 record overall with a 4.84 ERA. He struck out 56 batters in 2013 and this past summer, played with the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League, being selected as one of the league’s All-Stars. In his first start of the season against Portland on Feb. 16, Poteet allowed one run in 4.1 innings pitched, striking out three in a no-decision. Last weekend, Poteet took the loss for the Bruins in their 9-1 loss to Cal Poly.
HOT HITTING BACKSTOP
Junior catcher Shane Zeile is off to a hot start at the plate through the first eight games, leading the Bruins with a .370 batting average and 10 hits while recording five RBI. Zeile has also logged a team-high three multi-hit games while recording a .444 slugging percentage and a .438 on-base percentage. Behind the plate, Zeile has handled a pitching staff that has allowed the lowest opposing batting average (.197) and the second-fewest hits (51) in the conference thus far. Last season, Zeile started 57 of the Bruins’ 66 games, logging nine doubles and two home runs.
Zeile has not been the only Bruin who has gotten off to a good start offensively, as freshman Luke Persico has been on a tear through his first eight collegiate games. The Stevenson Ranch, Calif. native has batted at a .333 clip thus far, posting one double and three RBI. Persico also leads the Pac-12 with four triples on the season and has logged a staggering .667 slugging percentage. On Feb. 21 against Cal Poly, he recorded nine total bases by going 4-4 with two triples, a double and a single to lead the Bruins to a 5-2 win over the Mustangs. His nine total bases in that game are the most in a single game by any player in the Pac-12 this season. In high school, Persico earned three varsity letters at Hart High School before transferring to Great Oak High School during his senior year. Additionally, he was selected in the 37th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies.
Since the start of 2010, UCLA has gone 79-34 in all road and neutral site contests. The Bruins have also gone 40-17 in Pac-12 road games since 2010. In the last two seasons, UCLA has gone 36-12 on the road and 7-2 in neutral site games. The Bruins have logged five Pac-12 road sweeps in the last three years (2010 at Washington, California; 2011 at Oregon; 2012 at Washington, Utah; 2013 at USC) and one non-conference road sweep (2012 at Georgia). The Bruins went 17-8 on the road in 2013, winning series at Baylor, Oregon, Washington State and USC and winning midweek games at UCSB, Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine.
UCLA came in at No. 19 in this week’s Baseball America top-25 poll, marking the 37th consecutive week that the Bruins have been ranked in the top 25. The Bruins last dropped out of the poll on May 22, 2011. UCLA finished the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in each of the nation’s major polls. In the last four seasons, the Bruins have been ranked in the top 10 by Baseball America a total of 17 times. UCLA also concluded the 2013 campaign with an RPI of 9 and the No. 2 strength of schedule according to boydsworld.com.
UCLA has finished among the top three in the Pac-12 Conference each of the last eight seasons (2006-2013), the only Pac-12 team to have done so. Under John Savage, UCLA finished third from 2006 through 2009, before finishing second in 2010 and winning the confernece title in 2011 and 2012. Last season, UCLA finished third with a 21-9 Pac-12 record. Never before in school history has UCLA enjoyed an eight-year span with as many top finishes in the standings.
TAKING THE HITS
UCLA has had at least one batter get hit by a pitch in each of the first eight games, bringing the Bruins’ season total to 14 batters hit by a pitch. Brian Carroll leads the Bruins with five hit by pitches while Ty Moore has been hit three times. Christoph Bono, Shane Zeile, Luke Persico, Chris Keck and Pat Gallagher have each been hit once. UCLA led the conference with 82 hit batters in 2013 and had a school record 104 batters hit by a pitch back in 2010.
In conference games since 2006, UCLA ranks second in wins (132) and win percentage (.623), trailing only Arizona State. The Bruins are third in total wins (313) and are fourth in overall win percentage (.626) among Pac-12 teams. UCLA and Arizona split the 2012 Pac-12 title, and UCLA won the 2011 Pac-10 championship in outright fashion for the first time since 1986. In 2013, UCLA won the first NCAA title in program history.
Returning to anchor the bullpen is All-American closer David Berg, who has enjoyed as fine a two-year career as any reliever in the history of college baseball. In three seasons, Berg has made 103 appearances, which is already good for third-most in school history, and has posted a 13-3 record with a 1.15 ERA. Berg also owns the NCAA single-season record for saves with 24 in 2013 and tied the NCAA record for most appearances in a season with 51 last year. Additionally, he became the first reliever in conference history to win Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year last season and was UCLA’s first recipient of the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award, given out to the nation’s top relief pitcher. Berg was named to the All-Pac-12 Team for the second time in his career in 2013, making him just the 25th UCLA player all-time to receive all-conference acclaim at least twice. In addition, he finished second in the country in both WHIP (walks and hits allowed per innings pitched) with a mark of 0.85 and ERA last year. Finally, Berg is the only pitcher in UCLA history to lead the conference in ERA in back-to-back seasons and is UCLA’s all-time record holder for most postseason appearances (17), postseason saves (6) and career saves (26). This season, Berg has thrown 10 innings in six appearances while logging one save and a 1.80 ERA.
HEAD COACH JOHN SAVAGE
Head coach John Savage was named the 2013 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, the ABCA and Perfect Game USA. By guiding the Bruins to their second straight College World Series last year, Savage became one of just 10 coaches all-time from the Pac-12 to lead their teams to back-to-back College World Series appearances (Frank Sancet, Jerry Kindall - Arizona; Bobby Winkles, Jim Brock - Arizona State; Pat Casey - Oregon State; Mark Marquess - Stanford; Sam Barry, Rod Dedeaux, Mike Gillespie - USC). Savage served as the pitching coach at USC from 1997-2000, where he helped lead the Trojans to the 1998 national title and another apperance at the CWS in 2000. Additionally, Savage is one of just five coaches in college baseball history to have led his team to one CWS championship, produced a No. 1 MLB Draft pick and coached a Golden Spikes Award winner. Savage helped UCLA post an overall 49-17 record in 2013, marking the second-highest single-season win total in school history, and is UCLA’s all-time winningest postseason manager with 32 postseason victories. UCLA also matched a school record with 21 conference victories in 2013. Finally, Savage has guided the Bruins to the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons and has a staggering winning percentage staggering .706 since 2010.