March 19, 2008
LOS ANGELES - The No. 11 UCLA baseball team (10-5) plays three games in two days this weekend against No. 7 Long Beach State (13-3). The Bruins host the 49ers on Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium before playing a doubleheader on Saturday at Long Beach State's Blair Field. Last spring, the 49ers took two of three games from UCLA. Long Beach State captured both mid-week games, and the Bruins knocked the 49ers out of the Long Beach Regional at Blair Field in June. This weekend's games mark UCLA's first against top-10 competition (as ranked by Baseball America).
Friday, March 21 - 6 p.m - at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium
LBSU's Andrew Liebel, RHP, Sr. (1-0, 1.11 ERA) vs. UCLA's Tim Murphy, LHP, Jr. (2-0, 2.35 ERA)
Saturday, March 22 - 1 p.m. - at Long Beach State's Blair Field
UCLA's Charles Brewer, RHP, So. (2-1, 4.85 ERA) vs. LBSU's Jake Thompson, RHP, Fr. (1-1, 3.97 ERA)
Saturday, March 22 - Game 2 - at Long Beach State's Blair Field
UCLA's Gavin Brooks, LHP, So. (1-0, 5.79 ERA) vs. LBSU's Vance Worley, RHP, Jr. (2-0, 3.29 ERA)
A LOOK BACK
UCLA returns to Los Angeles after having won the final two of three games at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif., last weekend. The Bruins dropped a 9-8 decision in the ninth inning on Thursday evening, before rebounding with wins on Friday night (10-6) and Saturday afternoon (12-9). Earlier in the week, UCLA routed Pepperdine in a Tuesday evening home game, 11-3. The Bruins have won three of their last four games and five of their last seven contests. UCLA's top performers in four games last week included Alden Carrithers (12-for-22, .545 avg), Brandon Crawford (9-for-15, .600 avg) and Charles Brewer (2.27 ERA in 13 innings).
ANSWERING THE BELL
In three games at Cal Poly last weekend, UCLA scored to tie the game, take the lead, or expand its lead in each inning after which the Mustangs scored (exception, ninth inning on Thursday). Cal Poly scored in each first inning; however, UCLA tied or took the lead in the second inning all three days. UCLA greatest comeback took place on Friday evening. Trailing 5-0 after the first inning, the Bruins added seven runs in the top of the second and scored once more in the third. After Cal Poly took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Saturday, UCLA responded with a four-run second inning and held on for the rest of the ballgame.
A.C. MAKES IT LOOK EASY
Alden Carrithers leads the club with a .444 batting average, starting at second base in all 15 games. The senior from Portland, Ore., has hit at a .559 clip (19-for-34) with 10 runs and seven RBI in UCLA's last seven games. In four games last week, Carrithers recorded 12 hits in 22 at-bats (.545 avg), totaling two doubles, one triple, one home run, two stolen bases, five runs and seven RBI. Carrithers hit 4-for-6 in the Bruins' first and third games at Cal Poly last weekend, and posted a 2-for-5 effort in the second game at Baggett Stadium. Carrithers has hit safely in 12 of UCLA's 15 games and owns a seven-game hit streak.
CRAWFORD KEEPS RUNNIN'
Brandon Crawford hit .600 in four games last week, recording nine hits in 15 at-bats against Pepperdine and Cal Poly. Crawford, who owns a seven-game hit streak, finished 3-for-5 with one run and one RBI in UCLA's 11-3 win over Pepperdine on March 11. The junior from Pleasanton, Calif., posted a 2-for-4 effort in Thursday's 9-8 loss. The Bruins' shortstop hit 3-for-3 with two RBI on Friday evening and followed up that performance by getting on base in three of five plate appearances Saturday (one single, one walk, one HBP). A .324 career hitter, Crawford has swiped six bases in 10 attempts this spring.
MURPHY MOWS `EM DOWN
Junior Tim Murphy makes his fifth start of the year Friday evening against Long Beach State. The left-hander from Vista, Calif., enters Friday's contest with a 2-0 record and 2.35 ERA. Murphy has registered a team-leading 32 strikeouts in 30.2 innings of work. Murphy's scoreless inning streak was snapped at 20.0 innings on Thursday, March 14, when Cal Poly struck for two runs with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. The 6-foot-2 southpaw struck out a season-high 11, allowing one hit in seven innings against Saint Mary's two weeks ago (March 7). Murphy earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors after hurling a complete game shutout against Bethune-Cookman (March 1) before a nationally-televised audience (ESPN2).
WHAT A RELIEF
Charles Brewer pitched 13.0 innings of relief in two games last week, allowing just four runs and nine hits. Brewer tossed a career-high nine innings in relief on Friday at Cal Poly, entering the game with nobody out in the bottom of the first as UCLA trailed, 4-0. The sophomore from Paradise Valley, Ariz., went the distance, limiting the Mustangs to one run and four hits while striking out a career-best nine batters to earn his second victory of the season. In Tuesday's 11-3 win against Pepperdine, Brewer struck out five in four innings to earn his first career save. Brewer currently sports a 2-1 record and 4.85 ERA in six games (two starts).
THE BOOK ON BROOKS
Sophomore left-hander Gavin Brooks will make his fourth start of the season Saturday at Long Beach State's Blair Field. Brooks has logged a 5.79 ERA and 1-0 record in 14.0 innings this spring, totaling 15 strikeouts. As a freshman in 2007, Brooks ended his season pitching three consecutive complete games, two coming in postseason play. In UCLA's 2-1 elimination loss at Cal State Fullerton (June 10) in NCAA Super Regional action, Brooks limited the Titans to two runs while striking out a career-high 12 batters in eight innings. Brooks went the distance in a 3-2 victory over Illinois-Chicago (June 2) at Blair Field (NCAA Long Beach Regional) and in UCLA's final regular-season game, a 5-2 win over eventual national champion Oregon State.
The Bruins more than doubled their home run production in four games last week. UCLA entered its mid-week contest against Pepperdine with five home runs through 11 games before belting six round-trippers in four ballgames. Gabe Cohen leads the charge with four homers. Cody Decker belted two home runs last week (Tuesday vs. Pepperdine, Thursday at Cal Poly). In all, seven Bruins have gone yard this spring.
THE TOUGH GET GOING
UCLA's upcoming schedule features No. 7 Long Beach State (March 21-22), San Diego State (March 25) on the road and No. 2 Arizona (March 28-30) in Tucson, Ariz. This weekend's games mark the Bruins' first contests against teams ranked in Baseball America's top-25 poll. Last season, UCLA finished its season with an 8-13 record against opponents ranked among Baseball America's top-25.
BRENDAN IN THE BULLPEN
Junior left-hander Brendan Lafferty has made a team-high seven appearances through the Bruins' first 15 games. Lafferty has compiled a 1-1 record and 3.26 ERA in 19.1 innings, recording 16 strikeouts while issuing just five walks. The Riverside, Calif., resident has competed with the UCLA baseball program longer than any other player (only current player from the 2005 squad). Lafferty made 15 appearances in 2005, redshirted the 2006 season, and led the team with 25 appearances last spring.
Junior Ryan Babineau has been named to the Johnny Bench Award watch list, as announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. The award is given annually to the top Division-I collegiate catcher. Babineau has caught more games than any Pac-10 catcher (126), making 122 starts. Babineau has committed two errors in 1,011 chances (.998 pct.), throwing out 33 of 84 attempted base stealers (39.3 pct). This season, opponents have attemped to steal twice on Babineau in nine games. At the plate, the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident has posted a career .267 average with 11 home runs, 67 RBI and 63 runs.
Sophomore left-hander Justin Uribe scattered three hits in five scoreless innings against Pepperdine on March 11, earning the victory in his first collegiate start. This season, Uribe has pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits, striking out four and walking three. Opponents are hitting Uribe at a .143 clip. The Santa Ana, Calif., resident has primarily spent his career at UCLA as the Bruins' center fielder. In 58 games, Uribe has posted a .278 average, collecting two home runs, 22 RBI, 30 runs and 11 doubles.
THROW SOME K'S
UCLA's pitching staff has logged 129 strikeouts in 140.2 innings this spring. Bruin pitchers recorded 18 strikeouts in 13 innings against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 27. No UCLA ballclub had totaled 18 strikeouts or more since March 25, 2000, when the Bruins fanned 18 batters in a 2-1 home loss to Washington. Through 15 games, left-hander Tim Murphy leads the club with 32 strikeouts. Right-hander Charles Brewer ranks second in that category, having registered 24 strikeouts.
Two of the Bruins' first three games this season extended into extra innings. UCLA played a 12-inning game (L, 3-2) against Oklahoma in the nightcap of a season-opening doubleheader on Feb. 23. The Bruins outlasted UC Santa Barbara, 5-4, in 13 innings on Feb. 27, a game that lasted five hours and 35 minutes. Last season, UCLA did not play any extra frames. The Bruins last played an extra inning game of 13 innings or longer on April 18, 2003, when UCLA won at Arizona State, 8-7 (13 innings).
PROJECTIONS AND PREDICTIONS
Baseball America has tabbed UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 Conference. The national baseball publication predicts the Bruins to finish ahead of Arizona, Oregon State and Arizona State, respectively. Shortstop Brandon Crawford, outfielder Gabe Cohen and left-handed starter Gavin Brooks have been tabbed preseason All-Pac-10 selections by Baseball America. The publication lists Rob Rasmussen as one of the five top newcomers and pegs Crawford and left-hander Tim Murphy as the second- and sixth-best pro prospects in this year's draft class. Baseball America lists Jermaine Curtis as the conference's best defensive third baseman and Brandon Crawford as the Pac-10's best defensive shortstop.
Junior shortstop Brandon Crawford has continued to earn preseason accolades. Crawford is one of 75 players to have been named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List. At season's end, the Golden Spikes Award is presented to the top college baseball player. The Pleasanton, Calif., resident has also been named a second-team preseason All-American by Baseball America and a third-team preseason All-America selection by Louisville Slugger and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).
TWO DOLLAR TUESDAYS
All season long, tickets to Tuesday evening games at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium will cost just two dollars. The promotion began on Tuesday, March 11, in a 11-3 victory over Pepperdine. The remaining Tuesday night games include non-conference opponents San Diego State (April 1), UC Irvine (April 8), Cal State Northridge (April 15), UNLV (April 22) and San Diego (May 6).
THE POLL IN THE PAC
UCLA was selected third out of nine teams in the Pac-10 preseason coaches' poll. The Bruins were picked to finish behind Arizona and Arizona State, respectively. Arizona captured six first-place votes, and Arizona State picked up three first-place votes. Last season, UCLA was picked fourth in the preseason coaches' poll and finished third with a 14-10 mark in Pac-10 ballgames.
'08 BRUINS RETURN INTACT
Seven of UCLA's eight All-Pac-10 selections from 2007, including three honorable mentions, return to the ballclub. In all, the Bruins return 22 letterwinners - seven starting position players and two weekend starting pitchers. UCLA's infield welcomes back each starter from 2007 - Jermaine Curtis (3B, Jr.), Brandon Crawford (SS, Jr.), Alden Carrithers (2B, Sr.), Cody Decker (1B/DH, Jr.) and Ryan Babineau (C, Jr.). Left-handers Gavin Brooks (So.) and Tim Murphy (Jr.) return to the rotation this season.
BACK TO WORK
Entering his fourth season at the helm of the program, head coach John Savage has the Bruin baseball program headed in the right direction. UCLA finished its 2007 season with its first trip to the NCAA Super Regionals since 2000. The Bruins dropped both games to Cal State Fullerton, by scores of 12-2 and 2-1. UCLA advanced to the Super Regionals after winning the Long Beach Regional, recording wins over No. 3-seed Pepperdine (7-3), No. 4-seed Illinois-Chicago (3-1) and No. 1-seed Long Beach State (7-4) at Blair Field.
Freshman left-hander Rob Rasmussen will miss 8-10 weeks with a fractured left foot (return expected early May). Rasmussen sustained the injury on a line drive comebacker in the third inning against UC Santa Barbara (Feb. 27). Freshman outfielder Jeff Rapoport (shoulder) missed the 2007 season rehabilitating a shoulder injury and is expected back later this spring. Freshman right-hander Erik Goeddel and junior right-hander Tim Schlatter are both sidelined with arm injuries.
ON THE WEB
All UCLA home games can be listened to and viewed online at uclabruins.com. Danny Lee and Tim Wilhelm have the call at UCLA's official athletics website. Lee enters his fourth season behind the microphone at Jackie Robinson Stadium, and Wilhelm returns for his second season. Additionally, audio broadcasts of road series at Arizona (March 28-30), Oregon State (May 9-11) and California (May 23-25) will be carried live online. Nearly all regular-season games can be followed live through CSTV's GameTracker, available at uclabruins.com.
ON THE HORIZON
Head coach John Savage announced on Nov. 14, 2007, that seven student-athletes had signed National Letters of Intent during the early signing period to attend UCLA and play baseball. These student-athletes will arrive on campus and enroll in the fall of 2008. Headed by assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Green, the fourth recruiting class under Savage includes six position players and one pitcher. This group features three AFLAC All-Americans - infielders Chris Amezquita and Clark Murphy and right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. All seven signees have earned all-league honors in high school and were Milwaukee Brewers Area Code Games selections. Cole and Cutter Dykstra have captured preseason first-team All-America honors and Murphy has earned third-team All-America accolades from Baseball America.
Eight former Bruin ballplayers enter spring training on major league rosters. In 2007, nine former Bruins played in the major leagues. Most recently, former UCLA infielder Garrett Atkins and the Colorado Rockies avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $4.3875 million contract. Following the All-Star break last season, Atkins hit at a .349 clip to lead Colorado to its first-ever appearance in the World Series. In January, former Bruin Troy Glaus was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman Scott Rolen. Outfielder Eric Byrnes returns for his third full season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team he helped lead to the 2007 National League Championship Series against Colorado.
MOVIN' ON UP
Last summer, 17 former Bruins competed in minor league baseball - 11 of those players were drafted under head coach John Savage. This spring, three former Bruins who played at UCLA in either of the past two years began their seasons in big-league camp. Right-handers Hector Ambriz (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Josh Roenicke (Cincinnati Reds) starred on the Bruins' 2006 NCAA Regional squad before getting drafted that June. Right-hander Brant Rustich was drafted in the second round of the 2007 MLB Draft and opened spring training in big-league camp with the New York Mets. The 6-foot-6 right-hander was assigned to minor league camp on March 7. Roenicke has pitched five scoreless innings in five appearances in Florida, totaling six strikeouts and one save (in one save opportunity).
COACHING AT A HIGH LEVEL
Former Bruin and major league infielder Torey Lovullo enters his third season as the Buffalo Bisons manager (triple-A, Cleveland). Lovullo has led the Bisons to winning records in each of his first two seasons after having spent 13 years playing professional baseball. Former Bruin ballplayers Eric Valent (Williamsport Crosscutters, single-A, Philadelphia) and Jerry Weinstein (Modesto Nuts, high-A, Colorado) are also serving as coaches in the minor leagues.
MARK THE CALENDAR
UCLA's game at Cal State Northridge on Tuesday, Feb. 26, was suspended in the middle of the 8th inning due to darkness. The remainder of that game (beginning at the start of the bottom of the 8th) will resume on Tuesday, April 15 at UCLA (4:30 p.m.). Both teams are scheduled to play that evening at 6 p.m. at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium. Should the remainder of the suspended game extend past 5:30 p.m., the second game will begin 30 minutes at the conclusion of the first. UCLA currently leads Cal State Northridge in the suspended contest, 22-2. Statistics from the game do not become official until its conclusion on April 15.