Feb. 25, 2008
LOS ANGELES - The No. 3 UCLA baseball team (1-1) resumes play at Cal State Northridge (1-2) on Tuesday and at home versus UC Santa Barbara (3-0) on Wednesday. Last spring, UCLA swept Northridge in three meetings. After a rainout on Friday, the Bruins downed the Matadors, 8-3 and 6-5 in a Saturday doubleheader (April 21). The Bruins posted a 12-8 victory in the series finale on Sunday, April 22. UCLA last played against UC Santa Barbara in 2006 - the Bruins lost 11-8 at home on April 25 and by a 4-3 margin on the road on May 9. UCLA plays twice on Wednesday evenings this season.
Tuesday, Feb. 26 - 2 p.m. - CSUN's Matador Field
UCLA's Matt Drummond, LHP, So. (0-0, 0.00) vs. CSUN's Drew Muren, RHP, Fr. (collegiate debut)
Wednesday, Feb. 27 - 6 p.m. - UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium
UCSB's Michael Martin, RHP, Sr. (0-0, 9.00) vs. UCLA's Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Fr. (collegiate debut)
After having gone 257 days since their last game, the Bruins returned to action Saturday, Feb. 23, and got their fill of baseball - UCLA and Oklahoma played two games totaling 21 innings. In a day that featured not only a doubleheader and a rain delay, but also a walkoff home run and extra innings, UCLA finally got its 2008 season underway. The Bruins downed the visiting Sooners in game one, 7-5, as right fielder Gabe Cohen drilled a two-run walkoff homer, setting off a celebration at home plate. That evening, both teams' bullpens clamped down, sending the contest into the 12th inning. Oklahoma edged UCLA, 3-2, in the nightcap.
ON THE WEB
Audio of Tuesday's game at Cal State Northridge will be broadcast live at uclabruins.com. All UCLA home games can be listened to and viewed online (streaming video), free of charge - 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 with the Bruins. Additionally, audio broadcasts of UCLA's road series at Arizona (March 28-30) and Oregon State (May 9-11) will be carried live online. Nearly all of the Bruins' regular-season ballgames can be followed live online through CSTV's GameTracker, available at uclabruins.com.
CRUSHED BY COHEN
Sophomore right fielder Gabe Cohen quickly became the hero of Saturday's season opener, depositing the first pitch he saw from Oklahoma closer Jake McCarter over the fence in left field. Cohen's two-run home run scored shortstop Brandon Crawford, who reached first base via a walk. The 2007 Pac-10 Co-Newcomer of the Year, Cohen finished second on the team with 10 home runs last spring. The walkoff blast marked the first such home run by a Bruin since Tim Stewart delivered a solo shot to send UCLA past Stanford, 8-7, on May 21, 2006, the Bruins' final regular-season home game that spring.
THE ARMS RACE
UCLA's pitching staff posted a combined 3.00 ERA in 21.0 innings of work last weekend. The Bruins limited Oklahoma to a .227 batting average through both games, allowing just 17 hits (four extra-base hits). Sophomore left-hander Gavin Brooks limited the Sooners to a .063 batting average, giving up one hit in 16 at-bats. Junior left-hander Tim Murphy allowed just five hits in six innings, as Oklahoma mustered a .238 average against the southpaw from Vista, Calif. Junior left-hander Brendan Lafferty held the Sooners scoreless in four innings of relief in game two, allowing just three hits while recording three strikeouts.
Due to the rainout at Sunday afternoon's ballgame, Public Safety Day has been rescheduled for Sunday, March 9, when the Bruins host St. Mary's at 1 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium. All public safety officials can watch that game free of admission - additionally, those officials can get four family members into the ballpark for free that afternoon. UCLA resumes its trading card promotion at each home game this season - next up are freshman pitchers Matt Grace (Wednesday) and Erik Goeddel (Friday).
'08 BRUINS RETURN INTACT
Seven of UCLA's eight All-Pac-10 selections from 2007, including three honorable mention awardees, return to the ballclub in 2008. In all, the Bruins return 22 letterwinners - seven starting position players are back in the lineup, and two weekend starting pitchers return to the mound. UCLA's infield welcomes back each starter from its 2007 campaign - Jermaine Curtis (3B, Jr.), Brandon Crawford (SS, Jr.), Alden Carrithers (2B, Sr.), Cody Decker (1B, Jr.) and Ryan Babineau (C, Jr.). Left-handers Gavin Brooks (So.) and Tim Murphy (Jr.) return to the rotation after having served as the back two weekend starters in 2007.
WELCOME TO WESTWOOD
The incoming group of 12 players (10 freshmen, two JC transfers) was rated the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation last fall by Baseball America. The group of newcomers features two AFLAC All-Americans - freshman outfielder Brett Krill and freshman right-hander Erik Goeddel. Five freshmen were selected in the 2007 draft, including Krill, right-hander Dan Klein, left-hander Rob Rasmussen and infielders Niko Gallego and Brandon Lodge. The third full recruiting class under John Savage includes six pitchers and six position players.
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.
NOTABLE NOTES FROM LAST WEEKEND
- UCLA lost to Oklahoma, 3-2, in 12 innings in game two of Saturday's doubleheader...the Bruins last played an extra inning game on April 29, 2006, dropping a 3-2 decision at California...UCLA last played a game of 12 innings or longer on April 20, 2004, when the Bruins won at Cal State Fullerton, 5-4, in 12 innings.
- Freshman right-hander Dan Klein made his collegiate debut last Saturday, earning the victory in UCLA's season opener before absorbing the loss in the second game...in game one, he pitched 0.1 scoreless innings, escaping a ninth-inning jam...in the second game, he allowed one run and two hits in 2.0 innings of relief.
- The Bruins successfully stole three bases in four attempts against Oklahoma...the Sooners did not attempt to steal any bases against catcher Ryan Babineau...Oklahoma's one attempted stolen base failed, as junior left-hander Brendan Lafferty caught Spencer Selby in a rundown between first and second base.
THE POLL IN THE PAC
UCLA has been selected third out of nine teams in the Pac-10 preseason coaches' poll. The Bruins have been picked to finish behind Arizona and Arizona State, respectively. Arizona captured six first-place votes, and Arizona State picked up the remaining three first-place votes. Last season, UCLA was picked fourth in the preseason coaches' poll and finished third, with a 14-10 Pac-10 record.
TWO DOLLAR TUESDAYS
All season long, tickets to Tuesday evening games at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium will cost just two dollars. The promotion begins at UCLA's first home Tuesday night contest, on March 11 against Pepperdine. Following that game, the Bruins will host San Diego State (April 1), UC Irvine (April 8), Cal State Northridge (April 15), UNLV (April 22) and San Diego (May 6) on Tuesday evenings at the ballpark.
TUESDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Sophomore left-hander Matt Drummond will make his third collegiate start Tuesday afternoon. Drummond pitched one scoreless inning in game one last Saturday, recording one strikeout. In eight total appearances as a freshman in 2007, Drummond recorded an 8.49 ERA, limiting hitters to a .279 batting average in 11.2 innings. Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 35th round of the 2006 MLB Draft, Drummond starred as a three-year varsity baseball letterwinner at Paso Robles High School, where he was named the 2006 County Baseball Player of the Year by the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
LOOKING TO WEDNESDAY
Freshman left-hander Rob Rasmussen is slated to make his collegiate debut as UCLA's starting pitcher Wednesday evening, when the Bruins host UC Santa Barbara. Rasmussen, a four-year varsity baseball letterwinner at Pasadena Polytechnic, compiled a 38-2 record and 1.04 ERA in four high school seasons. The 5-foot-11 left-hander earned an array of honors, including third-team All-America accolades from Baseball America following his senior season. Last spring, Rasmussen captured CIF Southern Section Division VI Player of the Year honors after leading Pasadena Poly to a 24-2 overall record and CIF playoff appearance.
UCLA competes this weekend in the inaugural Urban Invitational, along with USC, Bethune-Cookman and Southern. The round-robin style tournament, hosted by the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., pits Southern against UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday evening (6 p.m.). The Bruins wil face Bethune-Cookman on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Urban Youth Academy before a national television audience (ESPN2). Sunday afternoon (1 p.m.), the Bruins renew their rivalry with USC in a non-conference showdown at Dedeaux Field. The participation of historically black universities Bethune-Cookman (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and Southern (Baton Rouge, La.) in the tournament is part of MLB's ongoing diversity and youth initiatives.
ON THE TUBE
Including Saturday's evening matchup against Bethune-Cookman at MLB's Urban Youth Academy, three UCLA baseball games are scheduled to be broadcast on television this season. ESPN's Gary Thorne and Brian Jordan will have the call from Compton, Calif., on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT (ESPN2). UCLA will be aired on FSN Prime Ticket in May, when Arizona State and Washington State head to Los Angeles. The Bruins and Sun Devils' game on Saturday, May 2, will be aired live outside of the Los Angeles area - the game will air at 8 p.m. that evening in the L.A. area, following the 5 p.m. Dodgers-Rockies game. UCLA and Washington State's Saturday contest (May 17) will be broadcast live from Jackie Robinson Stadium on FSN Prime Ticket.
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).
BABINEAU THE BACKSTOP
Junior Ryan Babineau has caught more games than any Pac-10 catcher (119), making 117 starts behind the plate in two full seasons at UCLA. Babineau, who has served as UCLA's primary catcher since stepping on campus in the fall of 2005, has committed just two errors in 948 chances (.998 fielding percentage). Babineau has thrown out 32 of 82 attempted base stealers (39.0 percent). At the plate, the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident has registered a career .266 batting average, 11 home runs, 62 RBI and 59 runs.
Senior Alden Carrithers returns to second base in 2008 after having led the Bruins with a .352 average last spring, his first season in Westwood. Carrithers started at second base in all 61 contests for UCLA and also led the club with a .445 on-base percentage. The Portland, Ore., native scored a team-high 53 runs, the most by a Bruin in one season since current Philadelphia Phillies standout Chase Utley scored 81 runs in 2000. In two seasons at UC Santa Barbara, Carrithers hit .317 and posted a .443 on-base percentage in 97 games (91 starts).
Junior Cody Decker flexed his muscles in 2007, totaling 14 home runs in 54 games. The Santa Monica, Calif., native hit two home runs in two games (March 30, at Stanford; May 6, vs. California) and handed UCLA a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Pepperdine in the Bruins' NCAA Regional opener. Decker became the first Bruin to eclipse the 10 home run plateau since Ryan McCarthy totaled 15 home runs in 2004. In 2002, Wes Whisler and Adam Berry each hit 18 home runs for UCLA. In his first two seasons at UCLA, Decker totaled 19 home runs, 70 RBI, 148 total bases and a .580 slugging percentage.
HARDLY A LAUGHER
UCLA's 3-2 loss in game two of Saturday's doubleheader against Oklahoma featured terrific performances out of both bullpens. Most notably for UCLA, junior left-hander Brendan Lafferty shut down the visiting Sooners, pitching four scoreless innings while striking out three hitters. Lafferty tied his career high in each category - innings pitched and strikeouts. In fact, the southpaw from Riverside, Calif., had never thrown four innings or more in a relief appearance. Last spring, Lafferty led all Bruin pitchers with 25 appearances (two starts).
Sophomore Justin Uribe heated up at the right time as a freshman in 2007. The former Foothill High School standout (Santa Ana, Calif.) led UCLA through the final 11 games, hitting .484 (15-for-31) with five doubles and one triple. In that span, Uribe tallied a .710 slugging pct. and .515 on-base pct. Uribe hit at a .545 clip (6-for-11) in three NCAA Long Beach Regional victories to earn all-tournament team accolades.
CAN'T TOUCH THIS
Sophomore right-hander Garett Claypool tallied a 3.54 ERA in 24 appearances (seven starts) as a freshman last spring. He recorded a 1.82 ERA as a starter, registering 20 strikeouts in 29.2 innings through seven starts. Claypool posted a 3-0 record as a starting pitcher, earning two victories against Pepperdine and one at UC Irvine. He earned freshman All-American honors at season's end from Rivals.com and Ping!Baseball.
CLOSIN' THE DEAL
Junior right-hander Jason Novak enters the spring as a top candidate to assume the closer role. Novak made 24 relief appearances after having made four starts and 19 relief appearances his freshman season. Last spring, Novak limited opponents to a .256 average, recording a 4.83 ERA and a perfect 3-0 record in 41.0 innings. Novak allowed just 10 extra base hits (two home runs) against 186 batters faced.
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.
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.
Freshmen outfielder Jeff Rapoport (shoulder) missed the 2007 season rehabilitating a shoulder injury and is expected back later this spring. Freshman right-hander Erik Goeddel (arm) and junior right-hander Tim Schlatter (arm) will not be available to pitch this week.