Los Angeles, Calif. - After starting the conference season with a sweep at California last weekend, the 22nd-ranked UCLA Baseball team returns home this weekend to host the Washington State Cougars in a three-game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday, March 21 - 6 p.m.
WSU – Jason Monda, LHP, Sr. (0-1, 3.27)
UCLA – James Kaprielian, RHP, So. (3-2, 2.97)
Saturday, March 22 - 2 p.m.
WSU – Joe Pistorese, LHP, Jr. (1-0, 2.54)
UCLA – Grant Watson, LHP, Jr. (3-1, 1.91)
Sunday, March 23 - 1 p.m.
WSU – Tanner Chleborad, RHP, Jr. (1-2, 3.76)
UCLA – Cody Poteet, RHP, So. (2-1, 2.15)
UCLA VS. WASHINGTON STATE
The Bruins, who are currently on a five-game winning streak, lead the all-time series over the Cougars, 44-21, while head coach John Savage owns a record of 17-10 against Washington State in his time at UCLA. In addition, UCLA has won the last four series over the Cougars dating back to 2010. Last season, the Bruins traveled to Pullman and took two of three from the Cougars, winning the first two contests on Friday and Saturday before dropping the finale on Sunday.
All three of UCLA's games vs. Washington State this weekend will feature a live audio broadcast online, free of charge, at uclabruins.com. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call live from Jackie Robinson Stadium. 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 THE SERIES OPENER
Sophomore right-hander James Kaprielian will take the mound for the Bruins on Friday night in the series opener. After earning freshman All-America honors from Perfect Game USA and Collegiate Baseball in 2013, Kaprielian has continued that success into 2014, posting a 3-2 record with a 2.97 ERA and a team-high 39 strikeouts. His 39 strikeouts are good for third-most in the conference and 12th-most in the nation. In addition to throwing a team-high 33.1 innings, Kaprielian has also held opposing hitters to a .168 batting average against him, the fourth-lowest opposing average in the Pac-12. In his last start at California, Kaprielian scattered seven hits over eight innings of work in a 3-2 win over the Golden Bears. At one point in the game, Kaprielian retired 14 batters in a row.
PAC-12 PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Junior left-hander Grant Watson will start game two of the series on Saturday afternoon for the Bruins. Watson is 3-1 through his first five starts this season, striking out 23 batters in 33 innings while posting a team-leading 1.91 ERA, which is also 10th-best in the Pac-12. Additionally, he is holding opponents to a .183 batting average against him, the seventh-lowest in the conference. Watson earned Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors after his start against California on Saturday in which he tossed eight innings and allowed one run on two hits in a 3-1 victory. He retired 16 straight batters from the end of the second inning to the start of the eighth inning and allowed just two California base runners through the first seven. In his last three starts, Watson has pitched a combined 22 innings while posting a 0.82 ERA and in his career has logged a 21-5 record as a starter.
CLOSING OUT THE SERIES
Sophomore right-hander Cody Poteet will start for the Bruins on Sunday afternoon in the series finale. Poteet served as UCLA’s midweek starter in 2013, posting a 4-6 overall record 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. Poteet is 2-1 through his first five starts of 2014, logging an ERA of 2.15 while striking out 23 batters. He has also surrendered just five walks all season, the sixth-fewest in the conference. In his last start at California, Poteet pitched seven innings, giving up just one run on three hits while striking out four in 6-1 victory that gave UCLA a sweep over California. In his last three starts, Poteet has pitched a total of 22.1 innings, striking out 18 batters and allowing just two earned runs.
UCLA opened up Pac-12 play last weekend with a big three-game sweep in the Bay Area at California. In the series opener on Friday night, the Bruins won 3-2 on sophomore Christoph Bono's game-winning double in the top of the ninth that scored sophomore Trent Chatterton. Sophomore James Kaprielian picked up the win for the Bruins while junior David Berg earned the save with a clean ninth inning. Then on Saturday, UCLA picked up a 3-1 victory over the Golden Bears behind eight strong innings on the mound from junior Grant Watson. Senior Kevin Williams provided most of the run support with a two-run home run in the seventh inning that broke a 1-1 tie while Berg earned his second save in as many nights. The Bruins then went on to earn the sweep on Sunday with a 6-1 win. Sophomore Cody Poteet picked up his second win of the year for the Bruins with seven innings on the mound while Bono, junior Chris Keck and freshman Luke Persico each recorded multi-games to lead the offense.
UCLA’s pitching staff has picked up right where it left off in 2013 as the Bruins continue to string together great performances on the mound this season. UCLA as a team is third in the Pac-12 conference with 140 strikeouts while holding opponents to a conference-low .188 batting average. The Bruins have also allowed the fewest hits (113), second-fewest walks (46) and own the second-lowest ERA (2.45) in the Pac-12. In addition, the Bruins’ pitchers own the third-best WHIP in the country at 0.92, tops in the Pac-12. UCLA’s starting quartet of James Kaprielian, Grant Watson, Cody Poteet and Grant Dyer have posted an ERA of 2.48 in 19 starts this season while holding opponents to a .186 batting average. In UCLA’s three-game series at California last weekend, Kaprielian, Watson and Poteet combined to throw 23 innings and log a 1.57 ERA. The Bruins have also allowed one run or less to the opposition in four consecutive games and in the last two seasons, are 51-2 when holding the opposing team to three runs or fewer.
PLAYING FROM AHEAD
In the last two seasons, UCLA has done a tremendous job of getting an early lead and then not relinquishing that lead. The Bruins are a combined 38-8 when they score first in the last two seasons and since the start of 2013 are a perfect 51-0 when leading after the seventh inning. Additionally, UCLA has a record of 22-4 in the last two seasons when scoring in the first inning.
Since the start of 2010, UCLA has gone 85-34 in all road and neutral site contests, good for a .714 winning percentage. The Bruins have also gone 43-17 in Pac-12 road games since 2010. In the last two seasons, UCLA has gone 40-12 on the road and 10-2 in neutral site games. The Bruins have logged six Pac-12 road sweeps in the last four years (2010 at Washington, California; 2011 at Oregon; 2012 at Washington, Utah; 2013 at USC; 2014 at California) 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 are currently 4-0 on the road this season. UCLA has also won 15 consecutive games away from Jackie Robinson Stadium dating back to last season.
UCLA came in at No. 22 in this week’s Baseball America top-25 poll, marking the 40th 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.
Senior Brian Carroll and sophomore Christoph Bono are both having strong 2014 seasons thus far. Carroll, a San Diego, Calif. native, is batting at a .309 clip so far, scoring a team-high 13 runs. Serving as the leadoff hitter in every game thus far, Carroll has posted a .434 on-base percentage and has hit safely in nine straight games, a new career high. During his nine-game hit streak, Carroll has batted .351 with six runs scored. He has also reached base safely in his last 15 games, has not committed an error in center field this season and leads the Bruins with five stolen bases on the season. Bono, Carroll’s counterpart in right field, has been on a tear as of late, hitting safely in a career-high seven straight games and logging at least one RBI in each of those seven contests. Bono is currently batting .319 overall with a team-high seven doubles, fourth-most in the conference, and has batted .407 since UCLA’s game on March 7 vs. Pepperdine. Bono has also logged a team-leading seven multi-hit games, is tied with Shane Zeile for the team lead in RBI (13) and slugging percentage (.449) and is second to Carroll with 12 runs scored.
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.
All-American closer David Berg has enjoyed as fine a career as any reliever in the history of college baseball. In three seasons, Berg has made 117 appearances, which is already good for second-most in school history, and has posted a 14-3 record with a 1.30 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 (30). This season, Berg has thrown 21.2 innings in a conference-leading 16 appearances, all while logging a 2-0 record, a Pac-12 leading five saves and a 2.08 ERA. Berg has also won his last 10 decisions dating back to 2012.
Junior catcher Shane Zeile is off to a hot start at the plate through the first 19 games, leading the Bruins and ranking ninth in the Pac-12 with a .362 batting average. Zeile, who was named to the 2014 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, given out to the nation’s top collegiate catcher, has also logged six multi-hit games while leading UCLA with 25 total hits, nine walks and a .444 on-base percentage. His on-base percentage currently ranks 10th in the conference. Behind the plate, Zeile has handled a pitching staff that has allowed the lowest opposing batting average (.188) and the fewest hits (113) in the conference. Last season, Zeile started 57 of the Bruins’ 66 games, logging nine doubles and two home runs.
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. 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 .707 since 2010.