Los Angeles, Calif. - UCLA returns to Pac-12 play this weekend as the Bruins welcome in the Arizona State Sun Devils from Friday, March 28 to Sunday, March 30 at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Arizona State leads the all-time series with UCLA, 112-68, while the two schools have each won four of the last eight matchups against each other. Last season, Arizona State took two of three from the Bruins in Tempe but prior to that UCLA had won the season series in each of the previous two seasons. The Bruins enter this weekend’s series having won eight of their last nine games and find themselves in a three-way tie for first with Oregon and Washington atop the Pac-12 standings.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday, March 28 - 6 p.m.
ASU – Brett Lilek, LHP, So. (3-1, 1.65)
UCLA – James Kaprielian, RHP, So. (3-3, 2.97)
Saturday, March 29 - 2 p.m.
ASU – Ryan Kellogg, LHP, So. (2-2, 3.65)
UCLA – Grant Watson, LHP, Jr. (4-1, 1.76)
Sunday, March 30 - 1 p.m.
ASU – Darin Gillies, RHP, Jr. (1-1, 4.71)
UCLA – Cody Poteet, RHP, So. (2-1, 3.41)
All three of UCLA's games vs. Arizona State this weekend will feature a live audio broadcast online, free of charge, at uclabruins.com. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm will have the call live from Jackie Robinson Stadium. Fans can also follow all three games online through a live stats link, which provides pitch-by-pitch updates on uclabruins.com. Links can be found on the front page of uclabruins.com on the events calendar or on the 2014 UCLA Baseball schedule page.
STARTING THE SERIES OPENER
Sophomore right-hander James Kaprielian will take the mound for the Bruins on Friday night in the series opener. After earning freshman All-America honors from Perfect Game USA and Collegiate Baseball in 2013, Kaprielian has continued that success into 2014, posting a 3-3 record with a 2.97 ERA and a team-high 42 strikeouts. His 42 strikeouts are good for third-most in the conference and 27th-most in the nation. Kaprielian has also held opposing hitters to a .199 batting average against him, the ninth-lowest opposing average in the Pac-12, and has allowed two runs or less in five of his six starts this season.
Junior left-hander Grant Watson will start game two of the series on Saturday afternoon for the Bruins. Watson is 4-1 in six starts this season, striking out 28 batters in a team-high 41 innings while posting a team-leading 1.76 ERA, which is also seventh-best in the Pac-12. Additionally, he is holding opponents to a .177 batting average against him, the fifth-lowest in the conference, and has walked just seven batters all year. Watson picked up the win in his last start vs. Washington State with eight strong innings on the mound. He has pitched eight innings in three of his last four starts and in his last four starts, has posted a 3-0 record with a 0.90 ERA. Finally, in his career Watson has logged a 22-5 record as a starter.
WRAPPING UP THE SERIES
Sophomore right-hander Cody Poteet will start for the Bruins on Sunday afternoon in the series finale. Poteet served as UCLA’s midweek starter in 2013, posting a 4-6 overall record with a 4.84 ERA. He struck out 56 batters in 2013 and this past summer played with the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League, being selected as one of the league’s All-Stars. This season, he is 2-1 through in six starts, logging an ERA of 3.41 while striking out 24 batters. He has also surrendered just five walks all season, the third-fewest in the conference.
UCLA continued its winning ways on Tuesday, defeating the Long Beach State Dirtbags, 2-1, at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Freshman Grant Dyer earned the win to move to 3-2 on the year by tossing six innings for the Bruins. Dyer struck out two and allowed just one run on five hits in his six innings of work. Junior David Berg picked up his seventh save of the year with 1.1 innings of relief for UCLA. Sophomore Ty Moore and senior Kevin Williams provided the run support for the Bruins, with Moore crushing a RBI double off the wall in the bottom of the first to score Shane Zeile before Williams scored Zeile with a RBI groundout in the third. In the game, Berg broke Bill Wenrick’s (1984-87) school record for career appearances, making his 120th career appearance for the Bruins. The game was also the first game televised live by the Pac-12 Networks at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
UCLA’s pitching staff has picked up right where it left off in 2013 as the Bruins continue to string together great performances on the mound this season. UCLA as a team is holding opponents to a .202 batting average, the second-lowest in the conference. The Bruins have also allowed the third-fewest hits (148), second-fewest walks (54) and own the second-lowest ERA (2.49) in the Pac-12. UCLA’s 2.49 ERA is also the 25th-lowest in the nation while the Bruins’ pitchers own the fourth-best WHIP in the country at 0.96, tops in the Pac-12. UCLA’s starting quartet of James Kaprielian, Grant Watson, Cody Poteet and Grant Dyer have posted an ERA of 2.66 in 23 starts this season while holding opponents to a .202 batting average. The Bruins have also allowed two runs or less to the opposition in seven of their last eight contests and in the last two seasons are 53-3 when holding the opposing team to three runs or fewer.
PLAYING FROM AHEAD
In the last two seasons, UCLA has done a tremendous job of getting an early lead and then not relinquishing that lead. The Bruins are a combined 39-8 when they score first in the last two seasons and since the start of 2013 are a perfect 53-0 when leading after the seventh inning. Additionally, UCLA has a record of 24-4 in the last two seasons when scoring in the first inning.
The Bruins have done an excellent job this season of laying down sacrifice bunts. UCLA ranks 12th in the nation and third in the Pac-12 with 30 sacrifice bunts. Freshman Luke Persico leads the Bruins and is fourth in the Pac-12 with six sacrifice bunts while freshman Brett Stephens, sophomore Trent Chatterton and senior Brian Carroll are second on the team with four. Last season, UCLA set a school record with 76 sacrifice bunts. In the sacrifice fly category, the Bruins have recorded eight on the year with sophomore Christoph Bono leading the way with two sacrifice flies.
UCLA came in at No. 18 in this week’s Baseball America top-25 poll, marking the 41st consecutive week that the Bruins have been ranked in the top 25. The Bruins last dropped out of the poll on May 22, 2011. UCLA finished the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in each of the nation’s major polls. In the last four seasons, the Bruins have been ranked in the top 10 by Baseball America a total of 17 times. UCLA also concluded the 2013 campaign with an RPI of 9 and the No. 2 strength of schedule according to boydsworld.com.
Senior Brian Carroll and sophomore Christoph Bono are both having strong 2014 seasons thus far. Carroll, a San Diego, Calif. native, is batting at a .301 clip so far, scoring a team-high 15 runs. Serving as the leadoff hitter in every game thus far, Carroll has posted a .426 on-base percentage and has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. In the last 13 games, Carroll has batted .327 with eight runs scored. He has also reached base safely in 18 of his last 19 games and leads the Pac-12 conference with nine hit by pitches. Bono, Carroll’s counterpart in right field, has been on a tear as of late, hitting safely in nine of his last 11 games and logging at least one RBI in eight of those 11 games. Bono is currently batting .294 overall with a team-high eight doubles, fourth-most in the conference, and has batted .326 since UCLA’s game on March 7 vs. Pepperdine. Bono also leads the team in RBI (15), is second to Shane Zeile for the team lead in multi-hit games (8), is second to Carroll with 13 runs scored and is third on the team with a .412 slugging percentage. Finally in left field, sophomore Ty Moore has hit safely in eight of his last 10 contests.
UCLA has finished among the top three in the Pac-12 Conference each of the last eight seasons (2006-2013), the only Pac-12 team to have done so. Under John Savage, UCLA finished third from 2006 through 2009, before finishing second in 2010 and winning the confernece title in 2011 and 2012. Last season, UCLA finished third with a 21-9 Pac-12 record. Never before in school history has UCLA enjoyed an eight-year span with as many top finishes in the standings.
In conference games since 2006, UCLA ranks second in wins (137) and win percentage (.628), trailing only Arizona State. The Bruins are third in total wins (324) and overall win percentage (.629) among Pac-12 teams. UCLA and Arizona split the 2012 Pac-12 title, and UCLA won the 2011 Pac-10 championship in outright fashion for the first time since 1986. In 2013, UCLA won the first NCAA title in program history.
All-American closer David Berg has enjoyed as fine a career as any reliever in the history of college baseball. In three seasons, Berg has made a school record 120 appearances, breaking the previous mark of 119 set by Bill Wenrick from 1984-87, and has posted a 15-3 record with a 1.30 ERA. Berg also owns the NCAA single-season record for saves with 24 in 2013 and tied the NCAA record for most appearances in a season with 51 last year. Additionally, he became the first reliever in conference history to win Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year last season and was UCLA’s first recipient of the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award, given out to the nation’s top relief pitcher. Berg was named to the All-Pac-12 Team for the second time in his career in 2013, making him just the 25th UCLA player all-time to receive all-conference acclaim at least twice. In addition, he finished second in the country in both WHIP (0.85) and ERA last year. Finally, Berg is the only pitcher in UCLA history to lead the conference in ERA in back-to-back seasons and is UCLA’s all-time record holder for most postseason appearances (17), postseason saves (6) and career saves (32). This season, Berg has thrown 27.1 innings in a conference-leading 19 appearances, all while logging a 3-0 record, a Pac-12 best seven saves (tied) and a 1.98 ERA (ninth-lowest in the Pac-12). Berg has also won his last 11 decisions dating back to 2012 and his seven saves are the 14th-most in the country.
Junior catcher Shane Zeile has continued to hit the ball well at the plate during the 2014 season. The Valencia, Calif. native leads the Bruins and ranks third in the Pac-12 with a .393 batting average. Zeile, who was named to the 2014 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, given out to the nation’s top collegiate catcher, has also logged a team-high nine multi-hit games while leading UCLA with 33 total hits, 11 walks, a .475 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage. His on-base percentage currently ranks fourth in the conference and his 33 hits ranks seventh. Behind the plate, Zeile has handled a pitching staff that has allowed the second-lowest opposing batting average (.202) and second-lowest ERA (2.49) in the conference.