March 4, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The UCLA baseball team (2-7) opens a three-game series at Oklahoma (9-3), beginning Friday, March 6. The Bruins return to the Midwest less than one week after having played in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas). All three games this weekend will feature an audio broadcast, live from Norman, Okla., available at uclabruins.com. One year ago, the Bruins and Sooners opened their season splitting a doubleheader in a rain-shortened series at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium.
SERIES VS. OKLAHOMA: UCLA leads, 5-4
CURRENT SERIES STREAK: Oklahoma, one win
Friday, March 6, 1 p.m. (PT)
UCLA - Rob Rasmussen, LHP, So. (1-0, 2.45)
Oklahoma - Andrew Doyle, RHP, Jr. (1-1, 3.46)
Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m. (PT)
UCLA - Charles Brewer, RHP, Jr. (0-1, 3.60)
Oklahoma - Antwonie Hubbard, RHP, So. (1-0, 4.50)
Sunday, March 8, 11 a.m. (PT)
UCLA - TBD
Oklahoma - TBD
AGAINST THE SOONERS
UCLA owns a 5-4 advantage in the series against Oklahoma. The two teams first met in the 1992 NCAA Mideast Regional (at Mississippi State). The Sooners won the Regional opener before ousting the Bruins in their fifth and final Regional contest, 10-0. UCLA swept the 2000 NCAA Regional at Oklahoma City, Okla. (Bricktown Ballpark), defeating Delaware before winning two games against the Sooners to cruise into the Bruins' first-ever Super Regional (at Louisiana State). In 2004, UCLA went 2-0 against Oklahoma in an NCAA Regional, back at Bricktown Ballpark, before falling to Florida in the Regional Final. The two teams also met in the 2005 Kia Baseball Bash at Cal State Fullerton (UCLA lost, 7-2), before splitting a season-opening doubleheader last year.
UCLABruins.com Radio will broadcast all three games at Oklahoma, live from L. Dale Mitchell Park. Third-year UCLA baseball broadcaster Tim Wilhelm will have the call. Fans can catch live audio broadcasts of all home baseball games at uclabruins.com, in addition to select road series. Aside from this weekend's action at Oklahoma, uclabruins.com will feature audio broadcasts of Pac-10 series at USC (March 21-23), Stanford (April 9-11) and Arizona State (May 22-24). All broadcasts are free of charge.
Ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule by Boyd's World, a nationally-respected ranking service, the 2009 UCLA regular-season schedule is lined with three consecutive non-conference weekend series away from the West. Following trips to the Houston College Classic, Oklahoma and East Carolina, the Bruins play nine weekends against Pac-10 opposition and a three-game non-conference set against Cal State Fullerton. In all, UCLA's travel schedule spans over 16,400 miles this spring, round trips included. The Bruins faced three top-10 teams at last weekend's Houston College Classic, hosted by the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
TOP OF THE PAC
Junior corner infielder Casey Haerther ranks among the Pac-10 Conference's top offensive performers in several categories. Through Tuesday's games, Haerther ranks third in batting average (.472), fourth in on-base percentage (.537), first in hits (17), and tied for fourth in total bases (23). The resident of Chatsworth, Calif., has belted two home runs and collected seven RBI in nine games for UCLA. Haerther's career-long 19-game hitting streak was snapped on Tuesday evening against Pepperdine. Previously, he had hit safely in each game since May 16, 2008 (vs. Washington State). Haerther leads the Bruins with six multiple-hit efforts this season.
Senior infielder Eddie Murray has batted .308 in eight games (all starts at second base). Murray belted his first career home run in a 7-6 loss at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 24, finishing the game 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI. Murray collected a career-high three hits in a 3-for-4 effort against No. 10 Rice on Friday at Minute Maid park. He had a clutch two-out, two-RBI double against Pepperdine on Tuesday, handing the Bruins a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. Murray earned Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team honors last weekend.
PRIDE OF POLY
Sophomore left-hander Rob Rasmussen has logged a 2.45 ERA, compiling nine strikeouts in 11 innings in two Friday evening starts. The former standout at Pasadena Polytechnic missed nearly 10 weeks of his freshman season after being struck on his left foot by a line drive in his collegiate debut (Feb. 27, 2008). Two weeks ago, Rasmussen tossed five scoreless innings to secure his first collegiate victory as the Bruins downed UC Davis, 13-1, on Opening Night. Last week, Rasmussen limited then-No. 10 Rice to three runs and six hits in six innings before exiting the game in a 3-3 tie in UCLA's first of three games at Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas).
Four Bruins earned Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team honors, as announced last Sunday evening. Representing UCLA on the All-Tournament Team were first baseman Casey Haerther (8-for-12), second baseman Eddie Murray (4-for-12, 2 RBI, 1 R), outfielder Blair Dunlap (5-for-12) and pitcher Gerrit Cole (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 K). Rice's Ryan Berry earned Houston College Classic Most Outstanding Player accolades after having totaled 12 strikeouts in a complete game, two-hit shutout of Texas A&M on Saturday night.
CELEBRATING 90 YEARS
The 2009 baseball season marks the 90th year of UCLA baseball. The Bruins have fielded a baseball team every year since 1920, when head coach Fred Cozens led UCLA to a 3-10 overall record. In 90 seasons, the baseball program has seen eight head coaches and totaled 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. Most recently, the Bruins have logged three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths for the first time in program history. UCLA has totaled 33 wins each of the past three seasons.
GIFFORD HITTING FACILITY
The UCLA baseball program broke ground on the Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility in early December 2008 and began using the new practice complex during the first week of February. Located behind the fence in right field at Jackie Robinson Stadium, the Gifford Hitting Facility stands 23-feet tall and spans 10,500-square feet. UCLA's new practice complex has room for as many as five hitting cages and provides ample space for a tee area and defensive drills. UCLA is extremely grateful to the late Jack Gifford and his wife, Rhodine, for their support of and passion for the Bruin baseball program.
LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD
UCLA takes flight for its third consecutive weekend series next Thursday, when the team heads to Greenville, N.C., for three games at East Carolina (March 13-15). Two seasons ago, the Bruins swept a three-game series against East Carolina at Jackie Robinson Stadium (Feb. 16-18, 2007). UCLA's cross-country trip to East Carolina comes after the Bruins host UC Santa Barbara (March 10) and San Diego State (March 11) in midweek home contests. UCLA enters its winter quarter finals week upon return from Greenville, N.C. The following Saturday (March 21), the Bruins open their Pac-10 schedule with a three-game series at USC.
MAJOR LEAGUE HOMER
Junior outfielder Justin Uribe was the only player in any of UCLA's three games in the Houston College Classic to belt a home run at Minute Maid Park. Uribe connected for his first home run of the year in the ninth inning against UC Irvine on March 1. That marked the second homer Uribe has belted at a major league ballpark. As a senior at Foothill High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), Uribe ripped a game-tying three-run blast at Angel Stadium to lead Foothill to the 2006 CIF Southern Section Division II Championship against St. Francis High School.
Junior Blair Dunlap has excelled in the first nine games of the season, posting a .394 batting average (13-for-33). Dunlap went 3-for-3 with one double, two RBI and one run in UCLA's season-opening 13-1 victory over UC Davis (Feb. 20). He went 2-for-5 with one walk, one run and one RBI in the series finale against UC Davis (Feb. 22). In a 5-1 loss to Baylor at the Houston College Classic (Feb. 28), Dunlap went 3-for-4 with one double. Last season, Dunlap batted .250 before earning All-Tournament Honors at the 2008 NCAA Fullerton Regional.
Freshman Chris Amezquita crushed his first collegiate home run in his first plate appearance as a Bruin on Feb. 20, in a pinch-hit at-bat with one out in the seventh inning. Amezquita became the first Bruin to record his first collegiate home run in his first game since Tim Murphy accomplished the feat on Feb. 3, 2006, versus Fresno State. However, Murphy's home run came in his second at-bat. Ironically, when promoted to the varsity squad as a freshman at Servite High School, Amezquita belted a grand slam homer in his first at-bat.
UCLA's catching corps may be among its more inexperienced units, however the collection of three catchers has performed well through the first two weeks of the season. Freshman Steve Rodriguez, sophomore Chris Giovinazzo and senior Gino Aielli have helped the pitching staff compile a 4.08 ERA while limiting the opposition to a .263 batting average. Additionally, each backstop has made contributions at the plate. Rodriguez (.222 avg, .417 OBP) went 3-for-5 on Feb. 27 against Rice. Giovinazzo (.267 avg, .433 SLG) has collected three doubles and one triple, and Aielli (.571 avg) has gone 4-for-7 with three doubles in limited playing time.
Senior Brendan Lafferty enters this weekend's series at Oklahoma having logged a 0.87 ERA in a team-leading six relief apperances. The native of Riverside, Calif., has logged 10 strikeouts in 10.1 innings through UCLA's first nine games. With his relief outing in Tuesday's contest against Pepperdine, Lafferty moved into seventh place on UCLA's career appearances list (79). Lafferty, named the Bruins' most valuable pitcher in 2008, made a team-high 33 appearances last season (all in relief), the most since Rob Henkel pitched in 34 games in 1997. He finished his junior campaign with a 4-3 mark, 3.74 ERA, three saves and 56 strikeouts in 67.1 innings.
Heralded freshman talents Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer have wasted little time making a positive impact on UCLA's pitching staff. Both Cole and Bauer were the only two pitchers named to the 2008 Los Angeles Times High School All-Star Team last spring, and rank first and third on the team, respectively, in innings pitched this season. Cole has collected 15 strikeouts in 12.0 innings. Bauer, who enrolled at UCLA in January after having graduated from Hart High School one semester early, has tallied 13 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. The right-hander from Valencia, Calif., has absorbed three losses despite a 3.86 ERA and .261 opponent batting average.
The Bruins welcomed two assistant coaches to the program last summer. Rick Vanderhook and Steve Pearse have joined the coaching staff and bring an extensive and impressive baseball background to Jackie Robinson Stadium. Vanderhook spent 21 seasons as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton and enters his 24th season coaching in the college ranks. He coached Cal State Fullerton to two national titles (`95, `04) and 10 College World Series appearances. Pearse begins his 20th season as an assistant coach and has helped lead his teams to the College World Series as an assistant coach (Cal, 1992) and as a player (Fresno State, 1988).
Baseball America has tabbed UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the 2009 Pac-10 title. The national baseball publication predicts the Bruins to finish ahead of Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon State, respectively. Casey Haerther is named by Baseball America as a preseason All-Pac-10 selection. The publication lists freshman right-hander Gerrit Cole as the conference's "top newcomer" and freshman right-hander Trevor Bauer as the Pac-10's ninth-best newcomer.
UCLA was selected second out of 10 teams in the 2009 Pac-10 preseason coaches' poll. Arizona State, picked to win the conference, and UCLA each received three of 10 first-place votes. Stanford, picked to finish third, gained one first-place vote, and Oregon State, selected fourth, captured two first-place votes. Arizona received the final first-place vote, being selected fifth in the preseason poll. California, USC, Washington State, Washington and Oregon round out the poll's 10 teams.