March 6, 2008
LOS ANGELES - The No. 3 UCLA baseball team welcomes St. Mary's to Jackie Robinson Stadium this weekend, beginning with the series opener on Friday, March 7 at 6 p.m. Junior left-hander Tim Murphy will take the hill Friday evening, less than one week after having tossed a complete game shutout. The Bruins will follow with sophomore lefty Gavin Brooks in Saturday afternoon's ballgame. Sophomore left-hander Matt Drummond is slated to make his second consecutive Sunday start in the series finale. UCLA and St. Mary's have not met on the diamond since 1980.
Friday, March 7 - 6 p.m.
SMC's Brandon Berl, RHP, So. (2-0, 5.11 ERA) vs. UCLA's Tim Murphy, LHP, Jr. (1-0, 0.53 ERA)
Saturday, March 8 - 2 p.m.
SMC's Brian Justice, RHP, Jr. (1-0, 1.42 ERA) vs. UCLA's Gavin Brooks, LHP, So. (0-0, 1.80 ERA)
Sunday, March 9 - 1 p.m.
SMC's Scott Schneider, RHP, So. (2-0, 1.38 ERA) vs. UCLA's Matt Drummond, LHP, So. (0-0, 3.68 ERA)
BIG LEAGUE SCHEDULE
The Bruins are currently playing through a 10-day stretch featuring eight games, the final three of which take place this weekend. The 10-day span began at Cal State Northridge (Feb. 26) in a game suspended in the eighth inning, due to darkness, with the Bruins leading, 22-2. The following evening, UCLA defeated UC Santa Barbara, 5-4, in 13 innings, a game which lasted five hours and 35 minutes. Over the weekend, the Bruins played three teams (Southern, Bethune-Cookman, USC), winning each game of the inaugural Urban Invitational. UCLA dropped consecutive ballgames to Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday and Wednesday.
NOTHIN' BUT THE BEST
Fourth-year head coach John Savage and the Bruins pride themselves on playing the best teams in the nation, and 2008 is no exception. Boyd's World, a national strength of schedule ranking service, has tabbed UCLA's schedule as the most challenging in the nation (pre-season intended strength ratings). Notably, nine of Boyd's World's top-10 programs (strength of schedule) hail from the West Coast, in either the Pac-10 or Big West Conferences. USC, Cal State Fullerton, Stanford and Georgia round out the top five. In 2007, Boyd's World rated UCLA's schedule as the second most-difficult, nationally. In 2006, UCLA's regular-season slate was rated the most-challenging in the country by Boyd's World.
HERE COME THE GAELS
UCLA continues its season with a three-game series against St. Mary's, a West Coast Conference competitor of which the Bruins have not faced since April 3, 1980. The Gaels own a 25-14 advantage in the series (unofficially, as records are missing from 1948-1954). UCLA regularly faced St. Mary's from 1928 through 1942. The Gaels carry a 7-1 record into Wednesday afternoon's game against Stanford. After splitting two games against Towson, St. Mary's has notched mid-week wins against UC Davis and Stanford and a four-game sweep of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Gaels' Wednesday afternoon contest against Stanford was suspended in the ninth inning due to darkness (at St. Mary's Louis Guisto Field).
MURPHY TO THE MOUND
Junior Tim Murphy will make his third start of the season, his fourth appearance on the hill on Friday evening. Murphy, a 6-foot-2 left-hander from Vista, Calif., earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors last Tuesday after having thrown 11.0 scoreless innings the previous week. Murphy hurled a complete game shutout against Bethune-Cookman on Saturday, leading the Bruins to a 2-0 victory. Murphy recorded 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk before a national television audience (ESPN2). The complete game shutout marked the first by a Bruin since Hector Ambriz shut down Pacific, 9-0, on Feb. 25, 2005.
BROOKS BOLSTERS BRUINS
Sophomore left-hander Gavin Brooks will start Saturday's contest, making his second start of the young season. Dating back to the final three weeks of the 2007 campaign, Brooks has compiled a 1.11 ERA in his last 33.2 innings of work. The lefty from Vista, Calif., finished his freshman season having fired three consecutive complete games. In the Bruins' final game at the NCAA Super Regionals, Brooks absorbed the loss in a 2-1 ballgame, striking out a career-high 12 hitters in eight innings at Cal State Fullerton. Brooks missed his start last weekend while nursing a blister on his left hand.
CARRITHERS IN THE CLUTCH
Senior second baseman Alden Carrithers has tallied several big hits this spring. The Portland, Ore., resident registered the game-winning hit in a 5-4, 13-inning victory over UC Santa Barbara (Feb. 27) and recorded a go-ahead, two-RBI double at USC just four days later (March 2). In four games last week, Carrithers posted a .438 batting average, collecting three doubles, one triple, two stolen bases, four RBI and four runs. Carrithers led the Bruins in batting average (.352) and on-base percentage (.455) last season.
Sophomore right fielder Gabe Cohen has belted two home runs in seven games. Both round-trippers have been the difference in the ballgame. In UCLA's season-opening 7-5 win against Oklahoma, Cohen crushed a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Cohen broke a scoreless tie in the top of the seventh against Bethune-Cookman, drilling a full-count pitch over the left field fence for the go-ahead run. Last season, the Woodland Hills, Calif., native earned Pac-10 Co-Newcomer of the Year honors after totaling 10 home runs and 36 RBI, becoming the first Bruin to earn the award since Wes Whisler in 2002.
UCLA's pitchers and catchers have limited the opposition from swiping bases. Opponents have attempted 10 stolen bases and have been successful half the time. Senior catcher Brent Dean has thrown out three of eight attempted base stealers and junior catcher Ryan Babineau has thrown out the one runner who attempted to steal on him. Opponents have been unsuccessful stealing bases with lefties Brendan Lafferty (0-for-2) and Tim Murphy (0-1) on the mound. In his career, Babineau has thrown out 33 of 83 attempted base stealers (39.8 percent).
Two of the Bruins' eight games have extended into extra innings. UCLA played a 12-inning game (L, 3-2) against Oklahoma in the nightcap of a season-opening doubleheader on Feb. 23. The Bruins outlasted UC Santa Barbara, 5-4, in 13 innings on Feb. 27, a game that lasted five hours and 35 minutes. Last season, UCLA did not play any extra frames. In the Bruins' two extra inning ballgames this month, UCLA's bullpen has allowed just three runs and 13 hits in 16.1 innings (1.65 ERA). The Bruins last played an extra inning game of 13 innings or longer on April 18, 2003, when UCLA won at Arizona State, 8-7.
THE ARMS RACE
UCLA's pitching staff has posted a 3.58 ERA in 78.0 innings (eight games). In four games last week (Feb. 27 - March 2), the Bruins limited their opponents to a .229 batting average, recording 40 strikeouts in 40.0 innings. The pitching staff allowed just seven extra-base hits (six doubles, one triple) in 140 at-bats. Four pitchers each finished the week without having allowed any runs. Left-hander Tim Murphy hurled 11.0 scoreless innings in two appearances (one start). Right-handers Charles Brewer (7.2 IP) and Dan Klein (4.1 IP) and left-hander Justin Uribe (1.0 IP) also helped hoist zeroes on the scoreboard.
THROW SOME K'S
Bruin pitchers recorded 18 strikeouts in 13 innings against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 27. No UCLA ballclub had totaled 18 strikeouts or more since March 25, 2000, when the Bruins fanned 18 batters in a 2-1 home loss to Washington. Right-hander Charles Brewer registered four strikeouts against the first five batters he faced in last Friday's 11-2 win against Southern. Left-hander Tim Murphy, who finished with 10 strikeouts against Bethune-Cookman, struck out each of the first six batters he faced on Saturday evening. Murphy currently leads the Bruins with 17 strikeouts in a team-leading 17.0 innings pitched.
Redshirt senior outfielder Brady Dolan has been a consistent contributor through the season's first eight games. Dolan, who has tallied a .250 batting average and scored three runs, hit safely in four of the Bruins' first six games. In his third season with the UCLA baseball program, Dolan has emerged as one of the team's most veteran leaders. In the team's season-opening win against Oklahoma, Dolan hit 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI. Dolan led UCLA with two hits in a 2-0 win against Bethune-Cookman on March 1. A proud native of Reno, Nev., Dolan arrived at UCLA in the fall of 2005 after having spent the 2004 season at UC Irvine (under then-head coach John Savage) and 2005 at Sierra College (Citrus Heights, Calif.).
TAKING DOWN THE TROJANS
In a rare non-conference game between UCLA and USC, redshirt junior Brendan Lafferty helped keep the Trojans at bay, throwing five scoreless innings to earn his first victory of the young season. Lafferty scattered two hits in his third appearance of the spring and retired 12 consecutive hitters from the fifth through ninth innings. The 6-foot-4 left-hander from Riverside, Calif., induced 10 groundball outs (six in the final two innings to second baseman Alden Carrithers) and three fly outs. UCLA has now won the last six meetings between the crosstown rivals and the last four contests against USC at Dedeaux Field.
DEAN DOES IT ALL
Senior catcher Brent Dean has started behind the plate in UCLA's last five games. In his first appearance of the year, the former L.A. Harbor City College standout finished 2-for-3 with a three-run home run and two runs as UCLA downed Southern, 11-2 (Feb. 29). Dean finished last weekend hitting at a .333 clip with three RBI, three runs and two hit-by-pitches. Dean has thrown out three of eight attempted base stealers. The veteran catcher, who has largely served in a back-up role to junior Ryan Babineau, has played in 11 career games and has registered a .263 batting average in two seasons.
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).
'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.
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.
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.
Junior Cody Decker returns to the lineup this spring as one of UCLA's most potent offensive weapons. Last season, Decker totaled 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.
Junior Ryan Babineau has been named to the Johnny Bench Award watch list, as announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. The award is given annually to the top division one collegiate catcher. Babineau has caught more games than any Pac-10 catcher (120), making 118 starts. He has committed two errors in 969 chances (.998 pct.), throwing out 33 of 83 attempted base stealers (39.8 pct). At the plate, Babineau has registered a career .268 batting average with 11 home runs, 62 RBI and 60 runs.
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.
Freshman left-hander Rob Rasmussen will miss 8-10 weeks with a fractured left foot (return expected early May). Rasmussen sustained the injury on a line drive comebacker in the third inning against UC Santa Barbara (Feb. 27). Junior catcher Ryan Babineau is day-to-day with a hip flexor injury. Freshman outfielder Jeff Rapoport (shoulder) missed the 2007 season rehabilitating a shoulder injury and is expected back later this spring. Freshman right-hander Erik Goeddel and junior right-hander Tim Schlatter are both sidelined with arm injuries.
ON THE WEB
All UCLA home games can be listened to and viewed online (streaming video) at uclabruins.com. 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), Oregon State (May 9-11) and California (May 23-25) will be carried live online. Nearly all of the Bruins' regular-season ballgames can be followed live through CSTV's GameTracker, available at uclabruins.com. All three games this weekend can be accessed via CSTV's GameTracker. The Bruins' series against St. Mary's will be broadcast on uclabruins.com - filling in for Lee and Wilhelm this weekend, Ralph Irvin and Jeff Knox will have the call.
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. Cole and Cutter Dykstra have captured preseason first-team All-America honors and Murphy has earned third-team All-America accolades from Baseball America.
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. In January, former Bruin Troy Glaus was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman Scott Rolen. Outfielder Eric Byrnes returns for his third full season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team he helped lead to the 2007 National League Championship Series against Colorado.
MOVIN' ON UP
Last summer, 17 former Bruins competed in minor league baseball - 11 of those players were drafted under head coach John Savage. This month, three former Bruins who played at UCLA in either of the past two years begin their seasons in big-league camp. Right-handers Hector Ambriz (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Josh Roenicke (Cincinnati Reds) starred on the Bruins' 2006 NCAA Regional squad before getting drafted that June. Right-hander Brant Rustich was drafted in the second round of the 2007 MLB Draft and opens the season competing in big-league camp with the New York Mets. Ambriz has pitched in one spring training ballgame, allowing one run in two innings. Roenicke has pitched two scoreless innings through two appearances in Florida, recording two strikeouts and one save.
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 (Williamsport Crosscutters, single-A, Philadelphia) and Jerry Weinstein (Modesto Nuts, high-A, Colorado) are also serving as coaches in the minor leagues.
JOIN THE CLUB
Any UCLA students interested in assisting the UCLA baseball program as a student manager are encouraged to contact assistant coach P.C. Shaw (e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org). Student managers have the unique opportunity of assisting with the day-to-day operations of the baseball program, including traveling on road trips, working at home games at Jackie Robinson Stadium, and assisting with various duties at team practices.
Due to the rainout of the ballgame on Sunday, Feb. 24 (vs. Oklahoma), 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. Players featured on trading cards at this weekend's series include freshmen infielders Brandon Lodge and Niko Gallego and freshman catcher Chris Giovinazzo.