March 29, 2007
The UCLA baseball team begins the Pac-10 Conference portion of its schedule with a three-game series at Stanford this weekend. Last season, UCLA recorded a 13-10 conference record and finished third in the Pac-10. All three games can be listened to on UCLA's Internet radio as Danny Lee calls the action live (uclabruins.com). The weekend series can also be watched online for free (gostanford.com, subscription required).
Radio: uclabruins.com (Danny Lee, play-by-play)
TV: gostanford.com (free broadcast)
WHEN THEY LAST MET...
The Bruins defeated the Cardinal twice in three games last May, as then-junior Tim Stewart swatted a walk-off home run in the series finale on Senior Day to give UCLA an 8-7 victory. UCLA's Jermaine Curtis led the Bruins offensively, hitting .545 over three games (6-for-11) with three runs, one double and one triple. UCLA has posted a 134-185 lifetime record against Stanford.
ABOUT THE CARDINAL
Stanford carries a 12-9 record into its first Pac-10 contest of the season. With head coach Mark Marquess at the helm, the Cardinal are led offensively by Sean Ratliff and Adam Gaylord - both players are hitting at a .333 clip. Three Stanford pitchers - Jeffrey Inman, Nolan Gallagher and Jeremy Bleich - have registered 20 or more strikeouts. Last weekend, the Cardinal split a two-game series with Sacramento State. Both teams exchanged shutouts, as Sacramento State earned a 6-0 victory on Friday before Stanford responded with a 10-0 win on Saturday. After starting the season 2-5, the Cardinal reeled off a season-high eight-game win streak, featuring three-game sweeps of Kansas and California.
UCLA enters this weekend's series at Stanford riding a two-game win streak. The Bruins took the final two of three games from Pacific in Los Angeles last weekend (March 24-26) thanks to some timely hitting. UCLA hit at a .340 clip against the visiting Tigers and tallied five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 26 runs scored. Four players recorded batting averages above .400 while totaling 11 or more at-bats. After scoring three runs in Saturday evening's series opener, the Bruins cashed in for 15 runs Sunday and an additional eight in Monday's finale.
The Bruins made school history in Sunday afternoon's comeback victory. Trailing 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth, UCLA posted a school-record 14-run inning to defeat Pacific, 15-8. Sophomore Cody Decker inititated the Bruins' late heroics with a grand slam and finished the day 2-for-5 at the plate with a career-high five RBI. UCLA baseball teams had previously scored 13 runs in one inning - versus Winthrop earlier this season (Feb. 4) and against Arizona State on Feb. 28, 1997.
WHO'S HEATIN' UP
Among UCLA's hottest hitters includes freshman Gabe Cohen and sophomore Cody Decker. Cohen has registered a .429 batting average through the last seven games. The freshman outfielder from Woodland Hills, Calif., has recorded nine hits in his last 21 at-bats, including one solo home run, five runs scored and 13 total bases. Decker, a catalyst in Sunday afternoon's comeback win, boasts a .364 batting average through UCLA's last seven games. The right-handed slugger has totaled eight hits in 22 at-bats, including one home run, three runs scored and five RBI.
Junior Alden Carrithers has excelled all season at the top of the lineup and at second base. The transfer from UC Santa Barbara boasts a .337 batting average (third-highest on the club) and has recorded a .441 mark when leading off the inning for UCLA (slotted as leadoff hitter in first 22 contests). Carrithers is hitting .402 (15-for-39) with runners on-base and boasts a .360 average (9-for-25) with runners in scoring position. The Portland, Ore., product has posted a .750 (6-for-8) average when hitting with a runner on third base and less than two outs.
HERE COMES THE BOOM
Sophomore Brandon Crawford leads the Bruins' offense in multiple categories, including batting average (.358), hits (34), at-bats (95), home runs (3) runs scored (21), RBI (24), total bases (56), slugging percentage (.589), stolen bases (9), on-base percentage (.415) and fielding assists (64). In Monday's 8-3 victory, the shortstop from Pleasanton, Calif., tallied his 12th multi-hit effort of the year. 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.
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.
BACK IN THE LINEUP
Sophomore Jermaine Curtis returns to the Bruins' lineup after missing the first 24 games. Curtis was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the winter quarter. Last season, the third baseman from Fontana, Calif., led all UCLA regulars with a .336 average. As a true freshman, Curtis scored 34 runs (third-most on the club), delivered 12 doubles (fourth-best total), collected four triples (second-highest mark) and tallied 21 RBI. Curtis played in 50 of the Bruins' 58 contests and earned 44 starts.
Three players on the UCLA roster hail from northern California, within 100 miles of Palo Alto, Calif. - Andy Suiter (Woodside, 7 mi. west), Brandon Crawford (Pleasanton, 35 mi. northeast) and Sam Ray (Clayton, 65 mi. north). UCLA's Charles Brewer and Stanford's Austin Yount and Cory Bannister both attended Chaparral High School (Scottsdale, Ariz). Brewer and Bannister both reside in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and were classmates at Chaparral (Class of 2006). Casey Haerther and Stanford's Kyle Thompson both graduated from Chaminade High School in West Hills, Calif., last spring.
WHAT'S NEXT - WASHINGTON
UCLA continues Pac-10 competition next weekend at home with a three-game series against Washington. The Bruins and Huskies square off Thursday, April 5, and Friday, April 6, at 6 p.m. UCLA and Washington conclude the series with a 2 p.m. start Saturday, April 7. UCLA has compiled a 26-10 lifetime record against Washington, including a 4-8 mark versus the Huskies at home since 1975.
HEAD COACH John Savage
John Savage has compiled a 58-80 record midway through his third season as UCLA's head baseball coach. A graduate of University of Nevada '91, Savage has coached 14 major-league players in his 14-year career as a college baseball coach. Prior to coaching at UCLA, Savage spent three years as the head coach at UC Irvine, where he brought back a dormant baseball program (school had not fielded a baseball team since 1992). Savage totaled an 88-84-1 record in three seasons at UC Irvine and has posted a 146-164-1 overall record as a head coach (currently in his sixth season).
Savage led the Bruins to the Malibu Regional of the NCAA Tournament in 2006, a season in which 12 players were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft (tied the program record). Ironically, Savage's 100th victory and his first NCAA Tournament win at UCLA came against UC Irvine, in separate contests. He has twice been named a finalist for the National Coach of the Year award by CollegiateBaseballInsider.com - in 2006 (UCLA) and 2004 (UC Irvine). Savage helped guide the Anteaters to their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2004, the third season in which baseball had returned to varsity status at UC Irvine.
WHO'S THAT MASKED MAN?
Sophomore catcher Ryan Babineau has played in all 24 games, earning 23 starts as the Bruins' catcher. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident has thrown out six of 22 attempted base stealers. Babineau has thrown out 21 of 59 attempted base stealers in his career at UCLA (35.6 percent). A freshman All-America selection by Baseball America in 2006, Babineau has committed one error in 620 career chances (548 putouts, 72 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).
Sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford has excelled under the lights in 2007. Through 12 night games, Crawford has posted a .435 batting average (20-for-46) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs, eight runs scored and 10 RBI. Senior outfielder Will Penniall has also performed well under the lights this season, recording a .364 average (8-for-22) with one double and two runs scored. Freshman right-hander Garett Claypool has thrown 9.2 scoreless innings at night, scattering just four hits and registering 10 strikeouts and just one walk.
A LOOK BACK IN THE PAC
One year ago, Jermaine Curtis led all UCLA regulars with a .390 batting average in Pac-10 Conference competition. In his first collegiate season, Curtis started 17 conference games and played in 20. The Fontana, Calif., resident collected 14 runs, three doubles, two triples and 13 RBI. Ryan Babineau posted a .351 batting average in Pac-10 play, starting all 23 games as the catcher. Babineau led the Bruins with three home runs in conference action and recorded 13 RBI and 11 runs. UCLA's Hector Ambriz, Ryan Babineau and Dave Huff earned 2006 All-Pac-10 Conference honors. Jermaine Curtis, Brandon Crawford and Paul Oseguera captured All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention accolades.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
Senior Will Penniall has sparked the UCLA lineup since opening day and currently boasts a .340 batting average, the second-best mark on the team. The La Cañada, Calif., native has been a great asset to the team as a starter and coming off the bench. Hitting 2-for-4 as a pinch-hitter, Penniall has totaled 18 hits, nine runs, seven RBI, 20 total bases and four stolen bases in 17 games.
Playing a road schedule that has featured weekend trips to Coral Gables, Fla. (Miami), Oxford, Miss. (Ole Miss), and San Diego (San Diego State), the Bruins have traveled roughly 9,734 miles this season, round trips included. UCLA played at the University of Miami (2,744 mi.) in the second weekend of the season, traveled locally for a game at Long Beach State (35 mi.) and Cal State Fullerton (42 mi.), and spent back-to-back weekends at Ole Miss (1,900 mi.) and San Diego State (135 mi.). UCLA's road slate includes trips to Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Washington State.
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) entered spring training in March as a member of the their team's respective 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 (arm) is are also unavailable to play this weekend against Pacific.
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."
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.
WALLACE WATCH LIST
Sophomore 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, shortstop who hails from Pleasanton, Calif., 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.
STAYING IN THE GOLDEN STATE
The Bruins will play their next 23 games in California (14 home, 9 road). Over that 23-game span, UCLA will host Washington (3), Pepperdine (1), Cal State Northridge (3), Arizona (3) and California (3). In-state road games will include 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. UCLA will hit the road for consecutive weekends when playing at Arizona State and Washington State (May 18-20). The Bruins conclude their regular-season at home against Oregon State (May 25-27).
SEVEN MORE 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. The former Bruin has had an outstanding spring, having hit at a .368 clip in 19 games (through Monday, March 26). The Phillies' second baseman has smacked six home runs, the most on Philadelphia's squad this spring. Utley ranks fourth on UCLA's career HR list (53) and fifth on the all-time hits list (256).
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 has performed very well this spring and boasts a .300 average (12-for-40) in 20 spring training games. Francisco's three home runs ties him for second-most on the squad. The former Bruin boasts a .326 on-base percentage through Tuesday, March 27. Last summer, the former Bruin standout hit .278 in 515 at-bats with the Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland's triple-A minor league affliate. Francisco, 25, played at UCLA from 2001-2002 and led the club with a .368 average in 2002.
JANSSEN EYES JAYS' ROTATION
Former UCLA right-handed pitcher Casey Janssen has stayed in the hunt for one of the Toronto Blue Jays' final two spots in the starting rotation. Blue Jays beat writer Jordan Bastian (mlb.com) reported on March 24 that Janssen may earn a spot on the big-league club as a reliever, despite having working as a starter throughout his career (collegiate and pro). Through five relief appearances this spring, Janssen has posted a 2.31 ERA and recorded 14 strikeouts while issuing just one walk. The former Bruin has allowed four runs (three earned) off 11 hits. Last season, Janssen pitched in 19 games (17 starts) for Toronto, registering a 5.07 ERA and a 6-10 record in 94.0 innings pitched.
LOVULLO AT THE HELM
Former Bruin Torey Lovullo has been making large strides as a minor league coach. After retiring as a professional ballplayer in 1999, Lovullo broke into coaching in 2001 as a roving coordinator with the Cleveland Indians. After having spent portions of three seasons with the Buffalo Bisons (Cleveland's AAA affilaite), Lovullo returned to Buffalo in 2006 after winning back-to-back Manager of the Year Awards with the Carolina League's Kinston Indians and the Eastern League's Akron Aeros in 2004 and 2005, respectively. While at UCLA, Lovullo recorded a .311 average, 45 doubles, six triples and 51 home runs in four seasons.