John Savage, UCLA knock down championship doors


OMAHA, Neb. — Before the season started, the UCLA baseball team walked into one of the national championship rooms on campus and gazed up and down the walls: 108 NCAA titles, but none credited to them.

That changed Tuesday night, the Bruins capping a perfect run through the postseason with an 8-0 stomping of Mississippi State. There had been grumbles all week long about UCLA’s lack of hitting, myriad suggestions that the walls needed to move in or the bats fixed or the balls changed.

No more. The Bruins owned the night, one closed with a dogpile as fireworks lit up behind the left field bleachers. Players eight-clapped to the adoring fans that had traveled to Omaha for them, mugging for pictures as they stretched the celebrations out as long as possible.

“We’ve been close,” coach John Savage said. “We’ve been knocking on the door. We knocked on the door in ’10, we knocked on the door in ’12. We knocked it down in ’13.” Continue reading

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UCLA dominates Bulldogs, wins first-ever baseball title

OMAHA, Neb. — John Savage and his UCLA team have a few well-worn phrases.

Among them: execution, pass the baton, Bruin baseball. After three trips to Omaha in four years, they can add “championship” to the vocabulary.

There is utility in cliche. UCLA raised its first-ever national championship trophy Tuesday night after an 8-0 win over Mississippi State, embodying all those phrases on a run marked by stunning consistency.

In all five of their victories at TD Ameritrade Park, the Bruins (49-17) allowed no more than a single run. Along they way, they laid down 12 bunts, tying a CWS record set by Santa Clara in 1962. It was small ball at its finest, the prize at the end perhaps silencing protests that UCLA had lucked its way to wins.

“Anybody that questions us now, I don’t think knows the game,” Savage said. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: NCAA to announce Oregon resolution Wednesday

» The NCAA will release its findings on Oregon football tomorrow. The Ducks paid a law firm $208,991.48 over a 24-month period as part of their internal investigation into violations.

» Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA is still awaiting potential class-action certification, but it’s already prompted Moody’s to revise the organization’s credit long-term outlook to negative.

» Both the Holiday and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowls will now be tied to the Pac-12 and Big Ten. The Holiday Bowl will pick from the Pac-12 after the Alamo and Rose Bowls; the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will pick after that. The Big Ten did not announce any locks into certain selections. Continue reading

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UCLA on cusp of title after 3-1 win over Mississippi State

OMAHA, Neb. — One more to go.

After a 3-1 win over Mississippi State to open the College World Series final, the UCLA baseball team can earn its first-ever national championship with 27 more outs.

You wouldn’t know it by the celebration. The Bruins jogged toward the mound after the final groundout, exchanging a few handshakes and high fives.

“It’s one game,” coach John Savage said. “I told the team there’s not much to get excited about. … We can enjoy this one for about half an hour, 45 minutes.”

Added closer David Berg, now alone in holding the NCAA single-season saves record: “All that matters is the next one. … Gotta live in the present. Can’t worry about the past. If we win a national title, I’ll enjoy that.” Continue reading

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Bruins take ‘refuse-to-lose attitude’ into CWS final

OMAHA, Neb. — The magic started on June 1, nearly a month before UCLA found itself playing for a national title.

In the second game of the Los Angeles Regional, the Bruins faced down a four-run deficit against Cal Poly. They weathered an uneven start from sixth-round pick Nick Vander Tuig, spoiled the Mustangs’ no-hit bid and won 6-4.

The way it happened — the friendly bounces, the fly ball that swam into the lights and became a triple — only reinforced their inner faith.

“We kind of had a feeling there like, ‘Hey, this is getting going,’” sophomore closer David Berg said. “We had a bit of a refuse-to-lose attitude. That’s really when we started gaining a lot more confidence.”

It’s worked. UCLA (47-17) has made the College World Series in three of the past four years, but this latest run has been the most remarkable. No one on the roster hits above .283. For the first time since 2009, no Bruin was taken on the first day of the MLB draft.

Yet the team enters a best-of-three championship series against Mississippi State at 5 p.m. PT Monday riding its longest winning streak of the season. Not bad for a program returned that lost the top five hitters from last year’s CWS team. Continue reading

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Kenneth Walker to miss 2013 season after back surgery

Kenneth Walker will likely sit out UCLA’s upcoming season after undergoing back surgery, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The 5-foot-9 receiver caught 11 passes for 87 yards as a freshman last season, and also returned seven kickoffs for 138 yards. Although he showed encouraging flashes through spring practices, Walker had a tendency to drop catchable passes and wasn’t near the top of the depth chart.

The Bruins return senior Shaq Evans, mentioned in some preseason All-Pac-12 lists after leading UCLA with 877 yards in 2012. Sophomore Jordan Payton took starting reps through spring opposite Evans, while sophomore Devin Fuller has the potential to become a multi-position weapon.

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Reports: Pitt RB Rushel Shell will not transfer to UCLA

Former top-five running back recruit Rushel Shell will not be transferring to UCLA.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Pitt back had announced his intent to become a Bruin after a mid-April visit to Los Angeles. After rumors circulated on Twitter over the past few days, Rivals.com reported that Shell changed his mind and was trying to return to the Panthers. According to the Los Angeles Times, he wanted to remain closer to his twin daughters.

Shell also displayed poor judgment on social media after his April announcement, including one that drew the attention of UCLA running backs coach Steve Broussard. Continue reading

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Three-star receiver Jordan Lasley commits to UCLA

Three-star receiver Jordan Lasley committed to UCLA Saturday evening, less than 24 hours after he first received the offer.

The 6-foot-2 wideout clocked a 4.4 40-yard dash at the Bruins’ elite camp on Friday, and is currently rated a top-100 receiver nationally by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. He confirmed the news on Twitter following numerous reports.

Lasley plays at Gardena’s Junipero Serra High with five-star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and four-star linebacker Dwight Williams. He also has a 3.6 GPA, so academic eligibility won’t be a problem.

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Rose Bowl opens public tours

Today, the Rose Bowl begins running the first formalized tour in its 90-year history. Fans will be able to walk onto the field, through the locker rooms, and learn a little bit more about one of the country’s most iconic stadiums.

General manager Darryl Dunn said the goal is to create a museum-like experience: “You go in, you have some fun, you learn a little bit. Maybe you appreciate it a little more.”

Walk-up tours cost $17.50 for adults and $14.50 for children, available at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. They will be led on Saturday and Sundays until 4th of July, when tours will increase to every Thursday through Sunday. You can find additional information at rosebowlstadium.com or 626-275-2714.

During the abbreviated version of the tour given to media this week, I found the 1922 locker room to be the most interesting part. The room itself isn’t all that special, but still gave off a certain aura simply by virtue of being very old. (The tour guide did bring up “Five-Yard Fogerty” and the invention of the high five, but the story’s origins seem dubious. Former Dodger Glenn Burke is commonly credited for the gesture.)

The photo gallery below is most easily browsed by starting at the beginning and clicking on the photo to advance to the next.

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