UCLA hits the road for the weekend and will play a three-game series at San Diego State, beginning with a 6 p.m. start Friday at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Games on Saturday and Sunday begin at 1 p.m. Last season, UCLA swept San Diego State at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Bruins won on Friday, March 17, 14-6, and took Saturday's game, 12-2, before completing the sweep Sunday, winning 9-1. Tyson Brummett earned the victory in Sunday's series finale last season, allowing one run off five hits in 7.0 innings. Shortstop Brandon Crawford hit .556 with a 5-for-9 effort and three RBI in three games.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday - UCLA Tyson Brummett (RHP) vs. SDSU Steven Hirschfield (RHP)
Saturday - UCLA Tim Murphy (LHP) vs. SDSU Bruce Billings (RHP)
Sunday - UCLA Gavin Brooks (LHP) vs. SDSU Lance Sewell (LHP)
ABOUT THE AZTECS
San Diego State brings a 12-11 record into this weekend's series. Head Coach Tony Gwynn has compiled a 125-143 overall record (.466) midway through his fifth season. The Aztecs dropped a 4-3 decision in 10 innings on Tuesday at UC Riverside. Last weekend, SDSU won one of three games in the 2007 Tony Gwynn Classic. The Aztecs fell to Oklahoma, 4-1, Friday before defeating Michigan, 4-1, before 13,791 fans at Petco Park on Saturday. SDSU was edged by San Diego, 6-4, on Sunday. UCLA owns a 29-20 record against San Diego State since 1975.
TUESDAY NIGHT RECAP
The Bruins fell to No. 17 Long Beach State, 4-2, Tuesday evening at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Freshman right-hander Garett Claypool threw 5.1 scoreless innings and registered five strikeouts in his second collegiate start. Long Beach State won the season series, 2-0, for the first time since 2001. The Dirtbags defeated UCLA, 14-1, on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif.
BACK FROM MISSISSIPPI
The Bruins dropped two of three games over the weekend in Mississippi, as UCLA's bats were stymied Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. The Rebels blanked the Bruins, 8-0, Friday evening. UCLA answered with a nail-biting 7-6 victory Saturday afternoon before dropping the rubber game, 4-1, Sunday afternoon. Freshman Casey Haerther had an impressive day at the plate Saturday, hitting a career-best 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI.
CARRITHERS IN THE CLUTCH
Junior Alden Carrithers has performed well in clutch situations this season. The transfer from UC Santa Barbara not only boasts a .333 batting average (second-best on the club) but has also tallied a .370 (10-for-27) mark with runners on-base. A talented second baseman, Carrithers is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with runners in scoring position and .833 (5-for-6) with a runner on third base and less than two outs. Last season, Carrithers earned All-Big West second-team accolades at second base and led the Gauchos in batting average (.342), runs scored (60), walks (45) and on-base percentage (.465).
CRAWFORD LEADS THE WAY
Sophomore Brandon Crawford leads the Bruins' offense in multiple categories, including batting average (.386), hits (27), runs scored (15), RBI (16), total bases (43), slugging percentage (.614), stolen bases (8), on-base percentage (.456) and fielding assists (48). The right-handed hitting shortstop ranks second on the club in at-bats (70) and third in walks (7). Crawford earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of Feb. 12-18, when the Bruins posted a 4-0 record with a sweep of East Carolina and a Tuesday night victory against UC Riverside.
ACE ON THE HILL
Senior Tyson Brummett (3-2) has stepped up as UCLA's ace. Brummett has posted a 2.72 ERA in five starts, recording a team-leading 38 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. The Salem, Utah, native pitched complete game victories in back-to-back outings (Feb. 16 vs. East Carolina, Feb. 23 at Cal State Fullerton). He has pitched into the eighth inning in four of five starts. Opponents are hitting at a .217 clip off the right-hander. He allowed one run off three hits in 7.2 innings in a 1-0 loss at Miami (Feb. 9), one week after limiting Winthrop to one run off six hits in UCLA's 2-1 season-opening victory (Feb. 2.)
According to Boyd's World, a national strength of schedule ranking service, UCLA faces the third-most difficult schedule in the nation this season. The Bruins play 20 games against teams ranked in Baseball America's preseason top-25 poll. Likewise, 50 of UCLA's 56 regular-season games are against teams either ranked in or receiving votes in Collegiate Baseball's preseason "Fabulous 40" poll.
Four Bruins hail from the San Diego area - Gavin Brooks (Vista), Tim Murphy (Vista), Brant Rustich (El Cajon) and Jason Zinser (San Diego). Brooks and Murphy both attended Rancho Buena Vista High School, Rustich went to Grossmont High School in La Mesa, Calif. and Jason Zinser played at La Jolla Country Day High School. UCLA left-hander Paul Schmidt and San Diego State's Cameron Johnson, Kenny Mickens, Trevor Clausen and Josh Chasse reside in Las Vegas, Nev. Rustich and Aztec outfielder Ted Kleist both hail from El Cajon, Calif. Bruin second baseman Alden Carrithers played with San Diego State outfielder Dustin Warren at UC Santa Barbara in 2006.
WHAT'S NEXT - PACIFIC
UCLA returns home to open a three-game series against Pacific on Friday, March 24. Last season, the Bruins won two of three games in Stockton, Calif. UCLA won the series-opener, 5-2, on Friday, Feb. 18 and captured the Saturday contest, 5-1. The Tigers blanked the Bruins, 3-0, in the series finale on Sunday, Feb. 20. Dating back to 1975, the UCLA sports a 4-5 mark against Pacific.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
Senior Will Penniall has sparked the UCLA lineup since opening day and currently boasts a .318 batting average, the third-best mark on the team. The La Cañada, Calif., native delivered a clutch pinch-hit double with two outs in the bottom of the eighth in the season opener (Feb. 2). Penniall's double led to a dropped fly ball by Winthrop second baseman Phil Carey, off the bat of Ryan Babineau, and carried the Bruins to victory. Since opening night, Penniall has collected four multi-hit games, scored six runs and stolen three bases.
WHO'S THAT MASKED MAN?
Sophomore catcher Ryan Babineau has shown off his arm through UCLA's first 17 games. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. resident has thrown out five of 14 attempted base stealers. Babineau has thrown out 20 of 51 attempted base stealers in his career at UCLA (39.2 percent). A freshman All-America selection by Baseball America in 2006, Babineau has not committed an error in 566 career chances (498 putouts, 68 assists). Last year, he caught 56 of the Bruins' 58 games and helped lead the pitching staff to the second-lowest ERA in the Pac-10 (3.77).
HE'S A NIGHT OWL
While UCLA is hitting just .238 in night games this season, sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford has excelled under the lights. Through 10 night contests, Crawford has posted a .459 batting average (17-for-37) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, six runs scored and seven RBI. During the day, the Pleasanton, Calif., native is hitting .303 with 10 hits in 33 at-bats.
HOME SWEET HOME
Through 18 regular-season games, the Bruins have tallied a 6-4 mark at Jackie Robinson Stadium. UCLA took two of three games from No. 23 Winthrop to open the season (Feb. 2-4), picked up a Tuesday evening victory against UC Riverside (Feb. 13) and swept East Carolina (Feb. 16-18). The Bruins' three losses at home came on Saturday, Feb. 3 against Winthrop, 6-4, and versus Cal State Fullerton by scores of 7-4 (Feb. 24) and 7-2 (Feb. 25). Last season, UCLA recorded a 19-12 mark at home. The Bruins have 20 remaining home games.
WALLACE WATCH LIST
Sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford has been named to the 2007 Wallace Watch List, the College Baseball Foundation announced in November. The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year. Crawford joins nine other Pac-10 baseball players on the 2007 Wallace Watch List. The list of 148 ballplayers will be trimmed to 12 semi-finalists by late May. The selection committee will narrow the list to three finalists following the NCAA Super Regionals.
IN THE POLLS
UCLA began the season ranked No. 13 by Baseball America and has since fallen out of all five major polls. Following the season-opening series victory against Winthrop, the Bruins earned a No. 11 ranking. UCLA fell to No. 15 after getting swept at Miami and fell to No. 23 following a series loss to Cal State Fullerton.
BIG LEAGUE BRUINS
With spring training in full swing, nine former UCLA ballplayers have earned a spot on an MLB 40-man roster. Garrett Atkins (Colorado), Eric Byrnes (Arizona), Jeff Conine (Cincinnati), Ben Francisco (Cleveland), Troy Glaus (Toronto), Casey Janssen (Toronto), Adam Melhuse (Oakland), Dave Roberts (San Francisco) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia) will report to their respective teams training facilities as a member of the 40-man roster. Left-hander Jim Parque, who has not pitched in the major leagues since 2003, agreed to a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners on Feb. 2.
Sophomore Blair Dunlap and freshman Jeff Rapoport are unavailable to play due to shoulder injuries. Senior Nolan Rouse suffered an arm injury against Cal State Fullerton and is questionable for this weekend's series in San Diego. Freshman pitcher Charles Brewer has been medically cleared to play - he missed the first four weeks of the season with an illness.
PAC-10 COACHES PICK UCLA FOURTH
UCLA was selected fourth in the Pac-10 Conference's preseason coaches poll. The Bruins were picked to finish behind Arizona State, Oregon State, and Stanford, respectively. Last season, UCLA was selected eighth in the preseason poll and finished third in the Pac-10 with a 13-10 conference mark (33-25 overall).
Baseball America selected UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 title in 2007. The publication projected the Bruins to join Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was selected to Baseball America's preseason All-Pac-10 Team, and right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer was listed as the Pac-10's fifth-best newcomer. The magazine projected Brant Rustich as the Pac-10's ninth-best pro prospect in 2007. In its ranking of "best tools" within the Pac-10, Baseball America named Crawford as the "best athlete," "best defensive shortstop" and infielder with the "best arm." The publication listed Ryan Babineau as the catcher with the "best arm," Jermaine Curtis as "best defensive third baseman," right-hander Tyson Brummett with the "best changeup" and outfielder Jeff Rapoport as the "fastest runner."
ON THE FARM
Five former Bruins were rated as the top prospects in their respective MLB organizations. Dave Huff, last season's ace, has been ranked the No. 10 prospect in Cleveland's organization. Hector Ambriz, a three-year letterwinner at UCLA (2003, 2005-06), has been tabbed the No. 22 prospect in Arizona's farm system. Wes Whisler, a three-year letterwinner at UCLA (2002-04), is rated the No. 29 prospect in the Chicago White Sox organzation. Ben Francisco (2001-02) and Paul Oseguera (2005-06) have each earned honorable mention prospect accolades (Cleveland and San Francisco, respectively).
FRANCISCO'S FLYIN' HIGH
Looking to land a spot on the Cleveland Indians' opening day roster, former Bruin outfielder Ben Francisco is hitting .407 (11-for-27) in 11 spring training games. Francisco shares the team lead of three home runs with two other players and boasts a .433 on-base percentage this spring. Last summer, the former Bruin standout hit .278 in 515 at-bats with the Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland's triple-A minor league affliate. Francisco played at UCLA from 2001-2002 and led the club with a .368 average in 2002.
CRAWFO-RED, WHITE AND BLUE
Sophomore Brandon Crawford spent his summer playing for the U.S. National Team and helped lead Team USA to the FISU (International University Sports Federation) World Championship after the club posted a 28-2-1 overall mark. Crawford played in 23 games, starting 10, and hit .257 (9-for-35). He collected two doubles, six RBI, seven runs, three walks and one stolen base.
Last season's .977 fielding percentage ranked first in the Pac-10. The 2007 team has tallied a .977 mark (second in the Pac-10 Conference), having committed 15 errors in 661 total chances. UCLA returns five position players from the 2006 squad. Anchored by catcher Ryan Babineau, who did not commit an error in 445 chances last season, UCLA returns Blair Dunlap (1.000), Tim Stewart (.997), Tim Murphy (.950), Brandon Crawford (.949) and Jermaine Curtis (.908).
COAST TO COAST
The 2007 schedule features games in three contentinal U.S. time zones - Pacific, Central (at Mississippi) and Eastern (at Miami). Overall, the Bruins will play at 13 different ballparks during the regular season, including Jackie Robinson Stadium. Aside from the trips to Coral Gables, Fla., and Oxford, Miss., and games at Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, UCLA will play San Diego State, Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.), USC, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Pepperdine (Malibu, Calif.), Arizona State (Tempe, Ariz.) and Washington State (Pullman, Wash.).
UTLEY SIGNS FOR SEVEN YEARS
Former Bruin Chase Utley signed a seven-year, $85 million contract extension through 2013 with the Phillies, the ballclub announced Sunday, Jan. 21. Utley, who broke into the major leagues in 2003 after Philadelphia drafted the second baseman as the second overall selection in the 2000 MLB Draft, finished his three-year career at UCLA with a .342 average, 41 doubles, four triples, 53 home runs and 174 RBI. Utley ranks fourth on UCLA's career HR list (53) and fifth on the all-time hits list (256).
STAYING IN THE GOLDEN STATE
The Bruins will play their next 29 games in California (17 home, 12 road). Over that 29-game span, UCLA will Pacific (3), Washington (3), Pepperdine (1), Cal State Northridge (3), Arizona (3) and California (3). In-state road games will include San Diego State (3), Stanford (3), USC (3), UC Riverside (1), UC Irvine (1) and Pepperdine (1). The Bruins will not leave California until they play at Arizona State from May 11-13.