UCLA opens CWS with Omaha’s darling, Stony Brook

OMAHA, Neb. — Greetings from Omaha. I was nearly killed by a combination of demonic rain (anyone ever driven through a Midwest thunderstorm?…insane), lightning and semi trucks on my drive to Nebraska but I’m thrilled to finally be here. I’ll just be bringing you coverage of today’s opener v. Stony Brook. The rain appears to have let up for now but it’s supposed to rain all week so we could definitely see some delays or postponements.

While Stony Brook was busy shocking No. 7 national seed LSU, UCLA’s consistent brand of baseball has kept them as under the radar as an undefeated No. 2 seed could be. All of Omaha is pulling for Stony Brook as the locals love the underdogs. The Bruins faced a similar problem with TCU in 2010 but coach John Savage doesn’t seem to mind.

“If everyone is pulling for them, that’s what college baseball is all about,” Savage said in a press conference Thursday. “We’ll embrace it and go play.”

The Seawolves are playing in their first ever CWS and are just the second No. 4 regional seed to reach the series (Fresno State did it in ’08 and won the title). I’m not picking them to win it but they’re the real deal. They’re hitting .335 as a team (No. 2 in the nation), they lead the country in wins at 52-13 and, like UCLA, had seven players drafted.

Lastly, for all you Valley folks, Stony Brook has three Crespi alumni: Ace of staff and today’s starter senior RHP Tyler Johnson (12-1, 1.91 ERA), sophomore outfielder Joshua Mason and sophomore outfielder Michael Hubbard.

I’ll post lineups when I get them tomorrow. We do know that UCLA will start sophomore RHP Adam Plutko (11-3, 2.56 ERA).

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UCLA football early TV schedule released

From UCLA:

UCLA’s first two home football games of the 2012 season have been selected for television broadcast in the Pac-12 Conference’s early selection period. The season opener with Rice has also been chosen for tv by Conference USA broadcast partners.

FOX (over-the-air, Channel 11 in the Los Angeles area) will broadcast the home-opener on Sept. 8 against Nebraska on a national telecast. The game will kickoff at 4:30 pm (PT). The Bruins will make their television debut on the new Pac-12 Networks on Sept. 15 when they host Houston in the Rose Bowl. Kickoff time for that contest is at 7:30 pm (PT).

UCLA’s season-opener at Rice, on Aug. 30, is part of the television package belonging to Conference USA, and will be broadcasted nationally on the CBS Sports Network at 4:30 pm (PT).

All other UCLA football games this season will be eligible for a selection process for television broadcast. These selections will take place, in general, 12 days prior to the date of the event.

To see if your cable provider is currently signed up as a partner who carries the Pac-12 Networks, please click here to be directed to the channel locator.

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UCLA baseball playing for the Cup

The UCLA baseball team won’t just be playing for their first College World Series championship when they embark on their fourth trip to Omaha this week.

The Bruins are playing for the Cup.

With the athletic program ranked sixth in the Capital One Cup rankings – thanks to top-10 finishes in volleyball, tennis, golf, soccer and water polo – a title run in the CWS would give UCLA a shot to hoist the trophy.

Florida might stand in the way, as the Gators are not only ranked No. 1 in the current Capital One Cup rankings, but also head to Omaha. The Cup will be presented at the Espy’s on July 11, and the prize includes $400,000 in scholarship money for student-athletes.

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Franklin, McDonald to represent UCLA at Pac-12 Media Day

Perhaps unsurprisingly, UCLA redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin will be the team’s offensive representative at Pac-12 Media Day on July 24 at Universal Studios.

He is, after all, one of the team’s elder statesmen, coming off another strong season, a mouthpiece for going on three years.

But from a defense that includes many upper classmen and even several senior starters, the new staff has selected redshirt sophomore safety Tevin McDonald to attend the event.

McDonald had an impressive freshman season and has made a very good impression on the new coaching staff, particularly defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin. McDonald bulked up some during the offseason and will help fortify a veteran defensive backfield, with Aaron Hester, Sheldon Price and Andrew Abbott. His maturation this season is key as he tries to follow in the footsteps of Rahim Moore.

Here is the schedule for the event:

9 a.m.
Welcome – Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner
Gary Stevenson, President of Pac-12 Enterprises
9:15 a.m.
Colorado – Coach Jon Embree, David Bakhtiari (OT), Douglas Rippy (ILB)
9:35 a.m.
Arizona – Coach Rich Rodriguez, Matt Scott (QB), Jake Fisher (LB)
9:55 a.m. Arizona State – Coach Todd Graham, Cameron Marshall (RB), Brandon Magee (LB)
10:15 a.m.
Utah – Coach Kyle Whittingham, John White (RB), Star Lotulelei (DT)
10:35 a.m.
UCLA – Coach Jim Mora, Johnathan Franklin (RB), Tevin McDonald (FS)
10:55 a.m.
USC – Coach Lane Kiffin, Matt Barkley (QB), T.J. McDonald (S)
11:15 a.m. Break
11:25 a.m.
Washington State – Coach Mike Leach, Jeff Tuel (QB), Travis Long (DE)
11:45 a.m.
Oregon State – Coach Mike Riley, Markus Wheaton (WR), Jordan Poyer (CB)
12:05 p.m.
California – Coach Jeff Tedford, Keenan Allen (WR), Marc Anthony (DB)
12:25 p.m.
Washington – Coach Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price (QB), Desmond Trufant (CB)
12:45 p.m.
Stanford – Coach David Shaw, Stepfan Taylor (RB), Chase Thomas (OLB)
1:05 p.m.
Oregon – Coach Chip Kelly, Kenjon Barner (RB), Michael Clay (LB)

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UCLA headed to College World Series for second time in three years

All season long, UCLA baseball coach John Savage has stressed “sticking to the process.” When things don’t go right for the Bruins, Savage demands that his team not panic and stay calm.

It was nothing new on Saturday when UCLA played small ball, using two sacrifice flies, a squeeze bunt and a passed ball to methodically beat TCU 4-1 to punch its ticket to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. for the fourth time in school history. UCLA remained undefeated as it did not lose a game in either the regional or super regional.

“We chipped away,” Savage said. “We don’t blow anyone out. We hung around. We made everything count.”

While the Bruins’ offense was manufacturing runs, their pitchers were keeping TCU’s (40-22) offense from generating base runners. The Horned Frogs’ only source of runs in the super regional were solo home runs.

“We’re not a power hitting team,” sophomore shortstop Pat Valaika said. “Our game plan is to wear pitchers down. We work really hard to pass the baton and get the next guy to the plate. It worked tonight and it’s worked all season.”

UCLA started the season picked fourth in the Pac-12 and ranked in the mid-20s. With an RPI and strength of schedule in the top five, the No. 2 Bruins worked their way through a difficult non-conference slate that featured playoff teams Baylor and Purdue.

They went on to handle a grueling Pac-12 slate – one that featured five playoff teams – on their way to winning a share the regular season conference championship for the second straight season.

“To come out of the west is one of the hardest things in college baseball to do,” Savage said. “It never gets old. It’s like going to the biggest bowl game or the Final Four. It’s the epitome of college baseball to go to the middle of the country in the middle of June.”

The trek to the Midwest will be the the Bruins’ second in three years as they came up just short of a national championship in 2010, losing to South Carolina in the College World Series final. Six of UCLA’s nine position players were on that team as freshmen.

“That junior class is special and it will go down as one of the best classes in the history of the school,” said Savage, whose team does not have a senior on the roster. “It says a lot about their character and their leadership.”

Oddly enough, UCLA’s (47-14) off year came last season when it had two top-five draft picks in its starting rotation. This year, an improved offensive attack coupled with solid starting pitching and consistency from the bullpen combined to send the Bruins back to the mecca of college baseball.

“We had good chemistry my freshman year and this team is very similar,” junior infielder Trevor Brown said. “We all get along. We have great starting pitching and a great lineup. We feel very blessed to be going back to Omaha.”

Savage is quick to note, however, that these are not the 2010 Bruins. It’s a more mature, more confident group of juniors, six of which were drafted during the first two days of this week’s MLB draft.

“This team has a new identity,” Savage said. “We’re going to be going to Omaha with ‘Bruins’ on our chest but this is a different roster.”

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