For the second time in school history, UCLA will battle for an NCAA baseball championship.
With a 4-1 win over No. 1 seed North Carolina Friday night, the Bruins maintained their spotless postseason record and earned a spot in a best-of-three championship series against Mississippi State starting Monday. Neither team has ever won a baseball title.
In their most unlikely run into Omaha, UCLA — which last played for a title in 2010 — relied on pitching and defense to beat three top-five national seeds in the last two weeks.
Friday’s victory offered more of the same. The Bruins rode a stellar start from sophomore Grant Watson, who allowed just four hits in six scoreless innings. The lefty hadn’t pitched since throwing seven scoreless innings against San Diego on June 2, but coach John Savage said he didn’t hesitate to use Watson instead of ace Adam Plutko on four day’s rest.
“I think he showed the whole country he was ready to pitch on a big stage,” Savage said. Continue reading →
Over the past few weeks, watching UCLA baseball has produced a sense of near-inevitability.
The Bruins’ stellar pitching will keep any game close. They’ll rarely make mistakes. And more often than not, they’ll do just enough to win.
The size of the stage hasn’t changed that. Through two games in the College World Series, they are batting 2-for-27 with runners on base. They have notched one RBI in Omaha. Yet they have scored four runs, beating both LSU and North Carolina State, 2-1.
One more, and they’ll be back in a best-of-three championship series for the second time in four years.
“It’s more mentality for us,” said third baseman Kevin Kramer, who singled in the fifth with bases loaded to score the Bruins’ first run last night. “Like coach says, taking advantage of opportunities. We’re not going to put up any gaudy numbers.” Continue reading →
It’s official. UCLA will play Duke on Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden.
Exciting as the blue-blooded matchup may be, it’s not one that bodes well for Steve Alford six weeks into his first UCLA season.
The Blue Devils lost three starters (and 47.5 ppg) from last season’s Elite Eight squad, but return promising guards Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook. They also landed a top-five recruiting class that features elite wing Jabari Parker, who landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated before Andrew Wiggins seized the media’s attention.
Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, who averaged 10.3 points as a freshman in 2011-12, will also be eligible.
UCLA has talent too, but still lacks a go-to point guard like Duke has in Cook.
Playing at MSG won’t help the Bruins either. Roundtrip tickets from LAX to JFK start at around $420, while flights from Raleigh cost about half that. Duke fans can also manage an eight-hour road trip up the coast with relative ease.
Other notable nonconference games are at Missouri on Dec. 7, and at home against Alabama on Dec. 28. The two games signal the end and beginning of home-and-home series, respectively.
UCLA will only meet the Arizona and Washington schools once in conference play.
» Cal’s newly renovated Memorial Stadium has a marvelous press box view of the San Francisco Bay, but the price may be looming, insurmountable debt. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the school would still be short $132 million even if it sold all 2,902 seats. Stagnated at 1,857, Berkeley is now spending $300,000 a year to “professionalize” sales efforts.
The campus had originally planned to raise $270 million of the $321 million cost through ticket sales.
The whole project seemed ill-conceived from the beginning, what with the reliance on non-binding pledges. An absolute face palm of a quote from John Wilton, vice chancellor for administration and finance: “They learned a commitment is not a commitment until you have a binding document. Now we feel we’re better off.”
The Bruins haven’t dominated this season, but that hasn’t stopped the team from reaching the College World Series for the third time in four years. Upon arrival, coach John Savage’s squad showed that small ball works just fine in Omaha too.
Jumping on two errors by No. 4-seeded LSU, UCLA scraped through its CWS opener Sunday evening with a 2-1 victory. The Bruins handed Tigers starter Aaron Nola his first loss of the season, scoring unearned runs in the sixth and eighth inning. Continue reading →
For Father’s Day, a short read on what it’s like to grow up as a coach’s son — as it was first published in late November. (Taylor Mazzone has since been promoted to quarterbacks coach, after initially replacing Marques Tuiasosopo as Y receivers coach.)
Taylor Mazzone has a vision. A beautiful home in a football- crazed town, a wife and kids, and a bit of job security.
Simple conditions, but difficult to come by when you’re vying to become a football coach. Mazzone, a UCLA graduate assistant, is no stranger to the profession’s winding path, the packing boxes and new ZIP Codes. After all, he’s a coach’s son. Continue reading →
Jerry Rice Jr. announced his next destination on Friday, tweeting that he will use his last year of eligibility at UNLV.
The former UCLA receiver, who is graduating Sunday, had already decided to leave prior to the Bruins’ spring practices. He caught nine career passes for 69 yards, 30 of which came in a 42-14 win at Colorado last September.
The son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice will join a Rebels team that won two games in 2012. UNLV returns wideouts Devante Davis and Marcus Sullivan, rising juniors who caught for 854 and 659 yards, respectively. Each grabbed four touchdowns.
UPDATE: There’s been dispute over whether or not UCLA actually offered Lindell Stone, though 2017 athlete Dylan Moses still does have offers from multiple schools. Either way, an offer would have had little binding power.
Schools have nothing to lose from early offers and commitments, but one wonders if their time might be better spent. Even as the tactic spreads, projecting the development of young athletes remains a bit of a dice roll.
According to ESPN, Stone hasn’t even personally talked to any Bruin coaches yet; all contact has been through his coach. Obviously, a lot can change before he ever actually signs a scholarship: he might not develop as expected; coaches could leave; the world as we know it could end.