Feb. 19, 2008
LOS ANGELES - UCLA opens the season with a three-game home series on Friday, Feb. 22, against Oklahoma, a perennial contender in the Big 12 Conference. UCLA holds a 4-3 all-time record against Oklahoma, as the two teams met at Cal State Fullerton in the Kia Baseball Bash - Oklahoma defeated UCLA, 7-2, on March 4, 2005. The Bruins and Sooners also met in the Oklahoma City Regional in 2000 and 2004. UCLA defeated Oklahoma in each of four meetings - two games at each regional; in 2000, the Bruins won the Oklahoma City Regional.
Friday, Feb. 22, 6 p.m. (2007 Stats)
OU's Jeremy Erben, RHP, So. (JC transfer) vs. UCLA's Gavin Brooks, LHP, So. (6-7, 4.47 ERA)
Saturday, Feb. 23, 3 p.m.
OU's Michael Rocha, RHP, Fr. (Hays HS) vs. UCLA's Tim Murphy, LHP, Jr. (5-4, 5.68 ERA)
Sunday, Feb. 24, 1 p.m.
OU's Chase Anderson, RHP, So. (JC transfer) vs. UCLA's Charles Brewer, RHP, So. (0-1, 5.40 ERA)
'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 will be 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.
TWO FOR ONE DEAL
Fans who attend UCLA's basketball game against Oregon (12:30 p.m.) on Saturday can earn free admission to the baseball game that afternoon (3 p.m.). Simply by showing their basketball game ticket stub to an usher at Jackie Robinson Stadium upon entry, fans can watch Saturday's baseball game against Oklahoma for free.
WELCOME TO WESTWOOD
The incoming group of 12 players (10 freshmen, two junior college 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-handed pitcher Erik Goeddel. Five freshmen were selected in the 2007 MLB Draft, including Krill, right-hander Dan Klein, left-hander Rob Rasmussen and infielders Niko Gallego and Brandon Lodge. The third full recruiting class under head coach John Savage includes six pitchers and six position players.
BACK TO WORK
Entering his fourth season at the helm of the UCLA baseball 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, respectively. UCLA advanced to the NCAA 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.
UCLA has been ranked No. 1 in Baseball America's preseason poll, marking the highest preseason ranking in program history. The Bruins began the 1997 season ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 5 by Baseball America. The 2008 Bruins have also been ranked No. 3 by Rivals.com, No. 7 by Perfect Game Crosschecker, No. 17 by ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 19 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Last summer, UCLA was heralded as the No. 1 rising program in the nation by Rivals.com's college baseball staff.
FIELDING AN IMPROVEMENT
Among the greatest changes to the Bruins' baseball program this offseason was the renovation of the field surface at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Turf crews installed over 100,000 square feet of natural grass sod. Prior to turf installation, construction crews spent two months establishing a durable drainage system with proper irrigation. Additional upgrades included the installation of synthetic turf in both bullpens, a rubberized track spanning from dugout to dugout in foul territory, a new 15-foot wide dirt warning track and fresh coats of paint in each dugout and bullpen. New vinyl screens were applied to the outfield fence, perimeter walls and the lower portion of the backstop behind home plate.
NOTABLE NOTES FROM 2007
- UCLA has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in three of the past four seasons, including each of the last two years...in June 2007, the Bruins made their first trip to the NCAA Super Regionals since 2000.
- The Bruins finished 2007 with a 33-28 overall record and a 14-10 Pac-10 mark (third place)...last spring, UCLA began the year 8-14 before reeling off wins in 17 of its next 21 games.
- With starts of 8-1 and 12-2 in Pac-10 play, UCLA registered its best conference start since finishing 10-0 in the Southern California Conference in 1924.
- The Bruins' trio of starting pitchers fired 11 complete games, including two during the Long Beach Regional...Tyson Brummett hurled seven complete games, tied for second on the school's single-season list.
- UCLA swept Stanford at Sunken Diamond for the first time since 1991...the Bruins broke Stanford's streak of 71 consecutive three-game home series in which the Cardinal had not been swept (dated back to 1997).
- The Bruins recorded their first-ever sweep in a three-game series format at USC's Dedeaux Field...with the three wins, UCLA has defeated USC in each of the teams' last five meetings.
- Three players were selected in the 2007 MLB Draft (Kevin Brophy, Tyson Brummett and Brant Rustich).
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.
LET'S GET IT STARTED
UCLA has fared well in season-opening ballgames. Dating back to 1966, the Bruins have collected a 27-15 record in season openers, including a 32-10 mark in home season openers. In three years under head coach John Savage, the Bruins have registered a 2-1 record on Opening Day. Last Feburary, the Bruins edged Winthrop, 2-1, at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Tyson Brummett allowed just one run and six htis through eight innings to earn the victory, and Brant Rustich held the Eagles scoreless to record the save.
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).
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Sophomore left-hander Gavin Brooks will take the mound Friday evening, making his first opening day start at UCLA. The Bruins' No. 3 starter in 2007, Brooks set UCLA's freshman single-season records for most strikeouts (98) and innings pitched (110.2). The Vista, Calif., resident completed his freshman campaign on a very high note, tossing three complete games in his final three appearances (two postseason). Through his final four starts, Brooks registered a 1.34 ERA and a 3-1 record, limiting opponents to a .167 batting average in 33.2 innings of work. In that span, the left-hander totaled 28 strikeouts and just six walks.
MURPHY ON THE MOUND
Junior left-hander Tim Murphy had a strong sophomore season on the mound, emerging as the Bruins' Saturday starter midway through the spring. After then-freshman Charles Brewer fell ill with mononucleosis prior to the season opener, the Bruins tested four different pitchers in the No. 2 slot before Murphy emerged as the top candidate. Murphy tallied a 5-4 record and a 5.68 ERA in 76.0 innings, recording 96 strikeouts and limiting the opposition to a .278 batting average. In one of the most fierce performances of the season, Murphy struck out a career-high 14 batters in a 5-4 loss at Arizona State (no-decision). The southpaw also collected one save and one complete game victory at the Long Beach Regional in June 2007.
Sophomore right-hander Charles Brewer, the 2007 Arizona Gatorade High School Player of the Year, returns to the starting rotation in 2008 after having missed nearly his entire freshman season. Slated to serve as UCLA's No. 2 pitcher entering the season's first weekend, Brewer was sidelined for over two months with mononucleosis. Having recuperated to full strength by early May, the Paradise Valley, Ariz., resident made six relief appearances, posting a 5.40 ERA and 0-1 record. Brewer struck out a season-high three batters in 1.1 innings of relief against eventual national champion Oregon State (May 25).
BABINEAU THE BACKSTOP
Junior Ryan Babineau has caught more games than any Pac-10 catcher (117), making 115 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 928 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 58 runs.
The 2007 Pac-10 Co-Newcomer of the Year, sophomore Gabe Cohen, posted impressive numbers as a freshman last spring. The Woodland Hills, Calif., native crushed 10 home runs, the most by a freshman at UCLA since Wes Whisler belted 18 in 2002, and posted a .345 batting average, the second-best mark on the club. Cohen started 51 games (all in right field), collecting 12 doubles, 36 RBI and 35 runs. He returns to the middle of the lineup this season to provide even more power with Cody Decker and Brandon Crawford.
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 two full seasons at UCLA, Decker has totaled 19 home runs, 70 RBI, 148 total bases and a .580 slugging percentage.
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.
COACHING AT A HIGH LEVEL
Former Bruin and major league infielder Torey Lovullo enters his third season as the Buffalo Bisons manager (triple-A, Cleveland). Lovullo has led the Bisons to winning records in each of his first two seasons after having spent 13 years playing professional baseball. Former Bruin ballplayers Eric Valent (Wiliamsport Crosscutters, single-A, Philadelphia) and Jerry Weinstein (Modesto Nuts, high-A, Colorado) are also serving as coaches in the minor leagues.
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 weekend.
HEAD COACH JOHN SAVAGE
John Savage has compiled an 81-94 record in three seasons at UCLA. A graduate of the University of Nevada '91, Savage has coached 17 major leaguers in his 15-year career as a college baseball coach. Savage has led UCLA to the NCAA Regionals each of the past two seasons (NCAA Super Regionals in 2007). Each of his three recruiting classes have been ranked among the top-13 by Baseball America. Savage's 2008 squad is the only baseball team in school history to have been ranked No. 1 in any preseason poll. Prior to UCLA, Savage spent three years as head coach at UC Irvine, where he brought back a dormant baseball program (school did not field baseball since 1992). Savage's teams at UC Irvine accumulated a record of 88-84-1.