Jan. 31, 2007
No. 23 Winthrop (0-0) at No. 13 UCLA (0-0)
Where: Jackie Robinson Stadium (1,250)
When: Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.), Sunday (1 p.m.)
UCLA opens its 2007 season with a three-game series at home against Winthrop, beginning Friday, Feb. 2. Friday evening's game (6 p.m.) marks the first-ever meeting between UCLA and Winthrop and between UCLA and a current Big South team. The Bruins own a 20-12 mark in season openers dating back to the 1975 season. UCLA has won 25 of its last 32 home openers, including 11 of their previous 15. Last season, UCLA dropped an 11-9 decision to Fresno State at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Feb. 3. Tim Murphy hit 3-for-4 with one home run, two runs scored and three RBI in his first collegiate game.
ON THE HILL
Senior Tyson Brummett will lead the Bruins on the mound in Friday evening's season-opener. The right-hander from Salem, Utah, made 17 appearances in 2006 (including 15 starts). He compiled a 6-7 record and 4.52 ERA in 97.2 innings. Brummett threw 7.0 innings or more in seven of his 15 starts one year ago. A two-time MLB Draft selection by the San Francisco Giants, Brummett recorded stellar outings last season at NC State (March 5) and against USC (May 14).
ABOUT THE EAGLES
Winthrop finished second in the Big South Conference in 2006, recording a 46-18 overall record and an appearance in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional. The Eagles return right-handed pitcher Alex Wilson, outfielder Tommy Lentz and shortstop Chris Carrara from last season's team. Winthrop is led by head coach Joe Hudak, who enters his 16th season (541-361-5) as the Eagles' head baseball coach. The Eagles earned an at-large NCAA Tournament bid last season after posting a 24-7 Big South record.
UCLA has earned a No. 13 preseason ranking from Baseball America, a No. 21 mark in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and a No. 26 ranking from Collegiate Baseball. The Bruins' ended the 2000 season ranked No. 15 and finished the 1997 season in the College World Series with a No. 5 national mark (Baseball America). Rivals.com has ranked the Bruins No. 16, and the NCBWA has slotted UCLA at No. 23 in its preseason poll.
According to Boyd's World, a national strength of schedule ranking service, UCLA will face the third-most difficult schedule in the nation. The Bruins will 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. The Bruins begin the season with six games against top-25 teams - No. 23 Winthrop and No. 2 Miami.
WELCOME TO WESTWOOD
The UCLA baseball program features 13 newcomers - 10 freshmen and three transfer students. The incoming recruiting class, ranked 13th nationally by Baseball America, is headlined by the 2006 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year (Charles Brewer) and four players selected in the 2006 MLB Draft (Brewer, Matthew Drummond, Raul Duran and Casey Haerther). The Bruins welcome three talented transfers - second baseman Alden Carrithers (UC Santa Barbara), catcher Brent Dean (L.A. Harbor CC) and outfielder Mickey Weisser (Sierra JC).
The Bruins return five position players from the 2006 team, which finished the season ranked first in fielding percentage in the Pac-10 Conference. Anchored by catcher Ryan Babineau, who did not commit an error in 445 chances last season, UCLA returns outfielder Blair Dunlap (1.000), first baseman Tim Stewart (.997), outfielder Tim Murphy (.950), shortstop Brandon Crawford (.949) and sophomore Jermaine Curtis (.908).
DON'T BE OFFENDED
Offense should be UCLA's strength this season. After having ranked seventh in the Pac-10 in batting average last season, the Bruins return several reliable bats. Jermaine Curtis led all UCLA regulars in 2006 with a .336 batting average (.390 in Pac-10 play). Also returning to the Bruins' potent lineup are Brandon Crawford (.318 avg, .297 Pac-10), Cody Decker (.302 avg, .450 Pac-10), Tim Stewart (.301 avg, .277 Pac-10), Blair Dunlap (.300 avg, .302 Pac-10), Ryan Babineau (.258 avg, .351 Pac-10) and Tim Murphy (.254 avg).
WHAT'S NEXT - MIAMI
The Bruins hit the road on Thursday, Feb. 8 for a three-game series at No. 2 Miami, an Atlantic Coast Conference power that advanced to the College World Series in 2006. UCLA and Miami face off on Friday (2/9) with a 7 p.m. start (Eastern time), followed by a game at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday and the afternoon finale at 1 (Eastern) on Sunday. Last season, Miami won a three-game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium, defeating the Bruins twice (Friday and Sunday).
Baseball America has selected UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 title in 2007. The publication has projected the Bruins to join Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. Shortstop Brandon Crawford has been selected to Baseball America's preseason All-Pac-10 Team, and right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer is listed as the conference's fifth-best newcomer. The magazine has projected Brant Rustich as the Pac-10's ninth-best major-league prospect in 2007. In its ranking of "best tools" within the Pac-10, Baseball America names Crawford as the "best athlete," "best defensive shortstop" and infielder with the "best arm." The publication lists Ryan Babineau as the catcher with the "best arm," Jermaine Curtis as the "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 have been rated as the top prospects within their respective Major League Baseball organizations. Dave Huff, a key starter on UCLA's pitching staff in 2006, has been ranked the No. 10 prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization. Hector Ambriz, a three-year letterwinner at UCLA (2003, 2005-06), has been tabbed the No. 22 prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks 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 from Baseball America as a member of the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants ballclubs, respectively.
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 posting a 28-2-1 overall record. Crawford played in 23 games, starting 10, and posted a .257 batting average (9-for-35), The sophomore shortstop collected two doubles, six RBI, seven runs scored, three walks and one stolen base.
WHO'S THAT MASKED MAN?
Sophomore Ryan Babineau earned freshman All-America honors from Baseball America after posting a stellar freshman season at UCLA last spring. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native caught 56 of the Bruins' 58 games and helped lead the pitching staff to the second-lowest ERA in the Pac-10 (3.77). Babineau did not make an error in 445 chances (390 putouts, 55 assists) and threw out 15 base runners in 37 attempts (41 percent). The Etiwanda High School graduate also held his own at the plate, hitting .258 with six home runs and 25 RBI. Babineau heated up in the second half of the season, as he posted a .333 batting average (28-for-84) with three home runs, 13 RBI and 14 runs scored in UCLA's final 25 contests.
HEY WEISS GUY
Junior Mickey Weisser, a transfer from Sierra Junior College (located in Rocklin, Calif.), is slated to start in right field against Winthrop this weekend. Last season, Weisser led the Big-7 Conference with a .420 batting average and a .535 on-base percentage before earning Northern California Community College All-America honors. He also helped lead Sierra JC to its first-ever Final Four appearance and a 35-16 overall record (including 6-3 postseason).
BIG LEAGUE BRUINS
With three weeks to go before major leaguers report for spring training, nine former UCLA ballplayers have earned a spot on an MLB 40-man roster. Garrett Atkins (Colorado Rockies), Eric Byrnes (Arizona Diamondbacks), Jeff Conine (Cincinnati Reds), Ben Francisco (Cleveland Indians), Troy Glaus (Toronto Blue Jays), Casey Janssen (Toronto Blue Jays), Adam Melhuse (Oakland Athletics), Dave Roberts (San Francisco Giants) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies) will report to their respective teams training facilities as a member of the 40-man roster.