Plutko seizes postseason wins record, guides Bruins past Aztecs

LOS ANGELES — This wasn’t Adam Plutko at his sharpest.

A three-time all-conference selection, his best doesn’t include mishandling a bunt or hitting a batter on a 0-2 count. But the right-handed hurler never broke as he secured his fifth postseason win in a gutsy effort.

His solid, if unspectacular, outing Friday sufficed as he guided UCLA to a regional-opening 5-3 victory over San Diego State. The Bruins have now moved into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, with a 6 p.m. matchup against Cal Poly looming Saturday.

Along the way, Plutko became the school’s all-time postseason wins leader — passing former Golden Spikes winner and No. 3 draft pick Trevor Bauer. Continue reading

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Shabazz Muhammad’s father indicted on federal fraud charges

At this rate, Ron Holmes probably won’t be in New York for next month’s NBA draft.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Holmes — the father of former UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad — was indicted Thursday on federal bank fraud and conspiracy charges.

Holmes, who also attracted controversy for falsifying his son’s age, is accused fraudulently acquiring mortgages to purchase — and later sell — Las Vegas properties between 2006 and 2009. The U.S. attorney’s office wants $2.5 million from Holmes.

He has pleaded not guilty, is detained as he awaits a detention hearing Friday afternoon.

Holmes isn’t new to this type of crime. The L.A. Times previously revealed that, in 1999, Holmes had pleaded guilty to using false bank statements and tax returns to acquire mortgages. He agreed to use only his birth name as part of his probation release conditions, and was sentenced to six months’ house arrest.

The best move may be for Holmes to cut a deal and pay up, especially with Muhammad on the cusp of an NBA career. The Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year, whose age Holmes also falsified, will make at least $1.5 million his first season should he become a lottery pick.

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David Berg, Pat Valaika win Pac-12 honors

David Berg was officially crowned the conference’s best pitcher Wednesday afternoon, but coaches likely kicked themselves sore long before then.

Lightly recruited out of Bishop Amat High, the sidewinder came out of nowhere a year ago to lead the league in ERA (1.46) and set a record for appearances (50). As a sophomore, he became Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year with an even more dominant effort, one that has seen him collect a school-record 18 saves.

A quick run down of some other impressive numbers: a 0.70 ERA, best in the country; 0.78 WHIP, second in the country; 64 innings pitched, only 6.2 behind midweek starter Cody Poteet.

“You can’t really have a year as a reliever than he’s had this year,” coach John Savage said. “You’re talking about innings, hits per innings, walks per nine. You’re talking about strikeouts, saves, wins. He’s done it all. He should be up for not only Pitcher of the Year, but Player of the Year.”

Berg entered the season as a setup man, the position he’ll likely play in the pros, but became the closer when freshman reliever James Kaprielian was injured early in the season. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the 6-foot righty became the third Bruin to win Pitcher of the Year — after Trevor Bauer (2011) and Pete Janicki (1992).

“We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Savage said.

Pat Valaika also became the first Bruin to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, bolstering his first appearance on the all-conference team. The junior committed just five errors in 174 chances, tying the lowest mark for Pac-12 shortstops. He also leads the team in multiple hitting categories, including home runs, RBI and slugging percentage.

Pitchers Nick Vander Tuig and Adam Plutko made the All-Pac-12 team for the second and third time, respectively. Outfielder Brian Carroll and infielder Kevin Kramer earned honorable mentions.

Conference champion Oregon State took the other three major awards: sophomore outfielder Michael Conforto won Player of the Year after leading the league in OBP (.457); pitcher Andrew Moore took Freshman of the Year after notching 12 wins; Pat Casey was named Coach of the Year.

You can see the entire all-conference roster below the jump. Continue reading

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Four-star RB Craig Lee to sign Thursday

UPDATE: According to BruinSportsReport, Craig Lee has not yet been cleared by the NCAA. The letter he is signing Thursday is not an official NLI, just part of a ceremony at Redlands.

***

Back on National Signing Day, Jim Mora noted that the 2013 class did not have a running back … yet.

That spot is finally about to be filled, as four-star tailback Craig Lee is set to sign a national letter of intent with UCLA a ceremonial letter on Thursday. The Redlands High star had held off signing earlier because he needed better test results to qualify, but has since scored high enough on the ACT. A NLI can be signed before an athlete becomes eligible.

From the Redlands Daily Facts’ Ed Castro:

“It’s been pretty stressful,” Lee said. “But I had to do it. I did this to myself. I should have done the work from the beginning but it was my fault. I can’t blame anyone but myself.” …

“It feels good,” Lee said. “It’s a big weight off my shoulders. I just feel real happy. I can relax now.”

Lee should be able to play immediately once admitted, and adds some depth to the Bruins’ backfield committee.

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TV times set for three UCLA games

The Pac-12 released an early football TV schedule this morning, setting three game times for UCLA. Here’s what the Bruins’ fall slate looks like now, including an appearance on the new FOX Sports 1 network.

Aug. 31 – Nevada – 7 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Sept. 14 – at Nebraska – TBA
Sept. 21 – New Mexico State – TBA
Oct. 3 – at Utah – 7 p.m., Thursday (FOX Sports 1)
Oct. 12 – California – TBA
Oct. 19 – at Stanford – TBA
Oct. 26 – at Oregon – TBA
Nov. 2 – Colorado – TBA
Nov. 9 – at Arizona – TBA
Nov. 15 – Washington – 6 p.m., Friday (ESPN2)
Nov. 23 – Arizona State – TBA
Nov. 30 – at USC – TBA
Dec. 7 – Pac-12 Championship Game – 4:45/5 p.m. (ABC or ESPN)

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Power forward Wanaah Bail to visit UCLA

Steve Alford may finally land a prospect other than his son Bryce.

Save for four-star guard Allerik Freeman’s de-commitment, UCLA’s new head coach has generated little news in 2013 recruiting over his first two months on the job. That could change soon with 6-foot-8 forward Wanaah Bail.

A three-star prospect in 2012, the Bahamas native will officially visit the Bruins on Wednesday and Thursday according to multiple recruiting sites. Listed at 210 pounds, the former Texas Tech signee could immediately provide much-needed depth to the UCLA frontcourt.

Bail had committed to the Red Raiders in 2012, but left after briefly enrolling in summer school. CBS Sports reported that then-head coach Billy Gillispie’s mistreatment of players was the main reason the forward left, but academic issues were also rumored. Texas Tech reportedly released him from his NLI.

ESPN’s scouting report praises the lefty’s athleticism and ability to defend both forward spots, but needs to become a more consistent offensive threat. UCLA assistant Ed Schilling also coached him in the past at adidas Nations.

According to 247Sports’ Jerry Meyer, Bail will visit USC on Friday and Saturday, and Miami next weekend.

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Ickyridge Stoop, “I Feel” (feat. Drew Ann Drysdale)

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a music video from Ickyridge Stoop, a band that features former UCLA football players Todd Golper and Andrew Yelich. The song “I Feel” — which features Ann Meyers Drysdale’s daughter, Drew — is decent, and the video is crammed full of UCLA athletes. You can find more info at their official site.

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(Bi-)Weekly Q&A — 5/26/13

Q: What is the status on Eddie Vanderdoes and what’s taking so long? Will he have to sit a year?

Eddie Vanderdoes clearly wants to leave Notre Dame, and will likely end up at UCLA eventually. Since he signed a national letter of intent, he can’t play anywhere other than South Bend next season unless Notre Dame releases him. So far, the Irish have not done so. Vanderdoes can also appeal the NLI committee for a release. If that’s successful, he can play immediately anywhere.

If not, he can break his NLI and enroll elsewhere but lose a season of eligibility — ending up with four years to play three once you consider a possible redshirt year. That does not ban him from receiving a scholarship or practicing with his new team.

Q: So are we done with getting recruits or players for next year, or is coach Steve Alford just focusing on the 2014 class. Do we have any news on JUCO transfers?

Unless something unexpected happens, recruiting appears to be done for 2013. Alford said a few weeks ago that JUCO transfers were not a priority.

Q: How is Tony Parker developing? Does it appear he might be able to start at center next year? Continue reading

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UCLA draws in-state lineup to Los Angeles Regional

For the fourth straight year, the UCLA baseball team will host an NCAA regional.

The Bruins found out Monday morning they would begin play Friday against San Diego State. The early matchup bodes well for UCLA considering that the Aztecs (31-29, 15-15) made the 64-team postseason field only by winning the Mountain West Tournament. Cal Poly (39-17) and San Diego, which features Kris Bryant and his nation-leading 31 home runs, fill out the rest of the regional lineup.

Should UCLA advance, it could play Cal State Fullerton in the Super Regional. The Titans beat the Bruins 6-3 on May 15, and also won the College World Series in 2004.

All-session tickets ($40-80) can be purchased at UCLABruins.com, but single-game tickets ($8-15) won’t be available until Friday.

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