May 20, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The UCLA baseball team opens its final three-game Pac-10 series of the regular season, playing this weekend at No. 3 Arizona State (41-11, 19-5 Pac-10). At third place in the Pac-10 standings, UCLA (26-27, 14-10 Pac-10) looks to improve its conference resume in Tempe, Ariz. By the end of the weekend, UCLA will have played 21 games this spring against top-25 ranked teams, tops among Pac-10 teams (Baseball America poll).
SERIES VS. ARIZONA STATE: Arizona State leads, 103-62
CURRENT SERIES STREAK: Arizona State, one win
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday, May 22 (6:30 p.m.)
UCLA - Gerrit Cole, RHP, Fr. (4-7, 3.55)
Arizona State - TBA
Saturday, May 23 (6:30 p.m.)
UCLA - Trevor Bauer, RHP, Fr. (8-3, 2.90)
Arizona State - TBA
Sunday, May 24 (1 p.m.)
UCLA - Charles Brewer, RHP, Jr. (3-5, 4.30)
Arizona State - TBA
UCLA AT A GLANCE
THIS WEEKEND'S SERIES
UCLA enters the final weekend of the regular season having gone 13-8 through its last 21 games. The Bruins currently rank fourth in the Pac-10 Conference in team batting average (.287) and team ERA (4.24). Since opening the season 2-10, UCLA has rebounded with a 24-17 record in its last 41 contests. Arizona State enters the weekend series ranking second in team batting average (.305) and first in team ERA (2.76). Arizona State has clinched its third consecutive Pac-10 title after having swept Oregon (May 15-17).
VERSUS THE SUN DEVILS
UCLA opens its three-game series at Arizona State in third place in the Pac-10, five games behind the first-place Sun Devils. Last season, UCLA earned one victory in a three-game series against Arizona State at Jackie Robinson Stadium. UCLA hit at a .302 clip against Arizona State one year ago, and batted .333 against the Sun Devils in a three-game series at ASU in 2007. The Bruins last won a three-game Pac-10 series against Arizona State in 2006, when UCLA downed the Sun Devils in the final two games at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
UCLA is playing the most challenging schedule in the nation, as projected by Boyd's World (national strength of schedule ranking service). After opening the season with a three-game home series, the Bruins spent four consecutive weekends on the road - in the Houston College Classic (Feb. 27-March 1), at Oklahoma (March 6-8), at East Carolina (March 13-14) and at USC (March 21-23). UCLA has played six weekend trips away from southern California. The Bruins began 2009 by playing 22 of their first 33 games away from home. UCLA's final four games are being played on the road at top-3 ranked competition (Baseball America poll).
TOP PITCHING STAFFS
UCLA and Arizona State feature two of the nation's top pitching staffs. In fact, Arizona State and UCLA rank first and second, respectively, in Pac-10 team ERA (conference games only). The Sun Devils boast a 2.92 team ERA in Pac-10 play, while UCLA has compiled a 3.79 team ERA in conference action. Nationally, the Bruins have posted the 25th-lowest team ERA (4.27) through Sunday's games. Additionally, UCLA ranks eighth in the country in strikeouts per nine innings (9.5) and 18th in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings (8.86).
A LOOK AT THE PACK
UCLA opens the final weekend of regular-season play in third place in the Pac-10. At 14-10, the Bruins currently trail conference leader Arizona State (19-5) by five games. Washington State (16-8) stands in second place, and Washington (13-11) and Oregon State (13-11) share fourth place (Washington wins tiebreak, head-to-head series). Stanford (12-12) occupies sixth place while USC has moved into seventh place (11-13). Arizona (10-14), California (8-16) and Oregon (4-20) round out the conference's 10 teams.
UCLA's pitchers have recorded 488 strikeouts in 468.2 innings, the highest strikeout total in the Pac-10 through Tuesday's action. The Bruins have recorded more strikeouts than any UCLA team since 2000, when the staff registered 531 strikeouts in 64 games (highest single-season strikeout total on record at UCLA). The Bruins' pitching staff has collected 10 or more strikeouts in 24 games this spring, including in six of the last eight contests. Freshmen right-handers Gerrit Cole (95) and Trevor Bauer (87) lead UCLA in that category. In Pac-10 games, Cole ranks third in strikeouts (63) and Bauer is ninth (49).
Senior first baseman Cody Decker has tallied a team-leading 20 home runs and 50 RBI. Hitting at a .326 clip, Decker also leads UCLA with a .695 slugging percentage, 52 runs and 36 walks and is second with 61 hits. With his home run Tuesday at UC Irvine, Decker has become the first Bruin to belt 20 or more homers in one season since three players accomplished the feat in 2000 (Forrest Johnson, 23; Chase Utley 22; Bill Scott 21). He has compiled a career-best 12-game hitting streak and has reached base via hit or walk in the last 21 contests. Decker leads the Bruins with career totals of 46 home runs, 150 RBI and 175 hits.
Junior Blair Dunlap has started 52 games in center field for UCLA this spring. Headed into the Bruins' final weekend of the regular season, he is hitting at a .296 clip (63-for-213) and leads UCLA with 63 hits, 17 doubles and 14 stolen bases. Dunlap ranks second on the team with 104 total bases and 43 runs and is third on the club with 36 RBI. He has cranked five of his six home runs this season in Pac-10 play. Through the team's last nine games, Dunlap is batting at a .364 clip, going 12-for-33 with two doubles and 10 runs.
Senior Gino Aielli has played a major role in UCLA's success this spring and currently leads the team with a .374 batting average (46-for-123). Aielli, who has split time between third base, catcher and designated hitter, has collected five three-hit games and one five-hit effort. A former two-year standout at Saddleback Junior College (2006-07), Aielli played in just six games last spring for UCLA before making the most of his playing time in 2009. He has hit at a .486 clip (18-for-37) with 12 runs in the Bruins' last nine games.
CASEY AT THE BAT
Junior infielder Casey Haerther has compiled a .309 batting average and .476 slugging percentage in 49 games. Haerther ranks second on the ballclub with nine home runs and 41 RBI. The resident of Chatsworth, Calif., logged a career-high five RBI in a 2-for-4 effort against Long Beach State on April 28. Haerther's most impressive performance of the season came in a 17-2 victory at USC on March 23, when the Bruins' infielder went 4-for-4 with three runs and three RBI at Dedeaux Field.
Senior first baseman Cody Decker ranks eighth on UCLA's career home runs list with 46 (trails Ryan McGuire, 47). Senior left-hander Brendan Lafferty has moved into third place on the career pitching appearances list (93), trailing Chuck Yeager (111) and Bill Wenrick (119). Senior right-hander Jason Novak is tied for sixth on the same list, having pitched in 85 career games. Junior left-hander Gavin Brooks is tied with four other players for 10th place on the career saves list (8), and is tied for fifth on the single-season saves list (8).
CELEBRATING THE SENIORS
UCLA honored seven players on "Senior Day" on Sunday, May 17, as the Bruins hosted their final regular-season home game. The Bruins' seniors stepped up, helping UCLA secure a 7-0 lead through two innings. Gino Aielli went 3-for-4 with three runs, and Dustin Quist (redshirt junior) was 3-for-4 with an RBI-double. Cody Decker belted his team-leading 19th home run, going 3-for-4 with four RBI and Blair Dunlap (redshirt junior) went 3-for-5 with one pair of runs. On the mound, seniors Brendan Lafferty and Jason Novak each held Cal State Fullerton scoreless, as the duo combined for three strikeouts in 2.1 innings of relief.
IN HONOR OF JACK
A circular black patch with the initials "JG" is sewn on the left sleeve of UCLA's uniforms, in honor of the late Jack Gifford. Among the program's most loyal and passionate supporters, Gifford played for UCLA alongside former head coach Gary Adams in the early 1960s. Gifford, who passed away on Jan. 11, 2009, and his wife Rhodine generously funded the construction of UCLA's state-of-the-art hitting facility. Named in their honor, the Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility stands 23-feet high and spans 10,500-square feet.
HUFF PROMOTED TO MAJORS
Former UCLA pitcher David Huff was promoted to the Cleveland Indians' 25-man roster last weekend. Huff made his major league debut as Cleveland's starting pitcher on Sunday, May 17. He was tagged with the loss, surrendering seven runs and seven hits in 3.2 innings. Huff led the Bruins' to the NCAA Malibu Regional in 2006, going 7-4 with a 2.98 ERA that spring. Six other Bruins are currently on major league rosters, including Garrett Atkins (Colorado), Eric Byrnes (Arizona), Ben Francisco (Cleveland), Casey Janssen (Toronto) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia). Former UCLA standout Troy Glaus (St. Louis) is currently on the 15-day disabled list.
MINOR LEAGUE UPDATE
Three former UCLA pitchers are pitching in the minors at the triple-A level - Hector Ambriz (Reno Aces, Arizona), Dave Johnson (Memphis Sounds, Milwaukee), and Josh Roenicke (Louisville Bats, Cincinnati). Ambriz and Roenicke starred on the mound at UCLA as recently as 2006 under head coach John Savage. Former UCLA shortstop Brandon Crawford (2006-08) has been promoted from San Jose (high-A) to Connecticut (double-A, San Francisco Giants), where he has batted .273 through his first eight games.
Cody Decker - Sr., INF - Santa Monica, Calif. (Santa Monica High School)
One of UCLA's most veteran players in 2009, senior first baseman Cody Decker has developed into one of the West Coast's premier power hitters. Not only does Decker lead the Pac-10 Conference with 20 home runs, he ranks in the top-10 in several other offensive categories. A solid defensive asset at first base, Decker has committed just three errors in the field in four seasons at UCLA (.995 fielding percentage). He has posted career highs this season in batting average, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and walks. Below is a look at Decker's senior season.
FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICA CANDIDATE
Trevor Bauer - RHP - Valencia, Calif. (Hart High School)
Among the Pac-10 Conference's leaders in numerous pitching categories, freshman right-hander Trevor Bauer has helped spearhead UCLA's weekend rotation alongside fellow freshman Gerrit Cole and junior Charles Brewer. Bauer enrolled at UCLA for the winter quarter in January 2009 after having graduated from Hart High School (Newhall, Calif.) one semester early in December 2008. A top student who intends to major in engineering, Bauer leads UCLA with eight wins (8-3 record), 96.1 innings and a team-low 2.90 ERA. The list below features Bauer's top accomplishments as a freshman in 2009.
FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICA CANDIDATE
Gerrit Cole - RHP - Santa Ana, Calif. (Orange Lutheran High School)
A fixture in UCLA's weekend rotation since the first series of the 2009 season, freshman right-hander Gerrit Cole has posted some of the nation's most impressive numbers. Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Cole has registered a team-leading 95 strikeouts in 78.2 innings, compiling a .199 opponent batting average. The right-hander has posted a 3.55 ERA and 4-7 record (4-6 as a starter), as UCLA has scored 14 runs in his six losses as the Bruins' starting pitcher (2.33 runs scored by UCLA per game). Cole has allowed just 27 hits in 37.1 innings in his six losses, limiting the opposition to a .211 average in those games. The list below features Cole's top accomplishments as a freshman in 2009.