UCLA freshman Kyle Molnar named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week

UCLA’s Kyle Molnar was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week today, his prize for accomplishing something no Bruin had in over a decade.

The freshman righty struck out eight batters in a row in an 11-2 win over Washington State on Sunday, giving the team its fifth straight win and a series sweep to open conference play. The last UCLA pitcher to record that many consecutive strikeouts was David Huff, who fanned nine straight on Feb. 16, 2006 at Pacific.

Molnar’s streak looks even more impressive given the Bruins’ track record of producing top pitchers. Since Huff was taken 39th overall in the 2006 MLB draft, seven UCLA pitchers have become either first-, second- or third-round picks.

That run includes Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer — who went first and third overall in 2011 — as well as James Kaprielian, who went 16th to the New York Yankees last June. Cole struck out seven straight against Texas A&M in March 2010.

Molnar, who opened the season as UCLA’s Sunday starter, was ranked as Baseball America’s No. 53 draft prospect. The Aliso Niguel alum was intent on going to college despite one West Coast scout describing him as the most pro-ready high school pitcher available last year.

The 6-foot-4 freshman has a 4.50 ERA through five starts, but that number drops to 3.43 after excluding his career debut against North Carolina.

UCLA coach Steve Alford returns his extension after losing season

After a 15-17 record in his third season, UCLA head coach Steve Alford has "returned" the one-year extension he signed in  2014. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

After a 15-17 record in his third season, UCLA head coach Steve Alford has “returned” the one-year extension he signed in 2014. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

After one of the worst seasons in recent UCLA history, Steve Alford said in a letter to fans that he has decided to return the one-year contract extension he signed in 2014.

The news comes in the wake of a 15-17 finish by the Bruins, just the fourth losing season for the program since it hired John Wooden in 1948. A run that included a five-loss streak to end the year — including a third straight to USC — sparked palpable outrage for the UCLA faithful. Twice this week, a plane flew over campus, pulling banners that read “UCLA DESERVES BETTER! FIRE ALFORD!” and “MARCH MADNESS IS NOT FIRING ALFORD.”

In an email sent out on Sunday evening, Alford acknowledged that the result was “unacceptable,” but also recognized that the letter was unlikely to “change any opinions.”

“The fact remains that no matter how much time passes, the way we finished this past season will eat at me for a long, long time,” he wrote. “Our record speaks for itself and is simply unacceptable. There’s nothing that I can say or write that will change that fact. This happened under my watch, it begins and it ends with me. The buck stops here.

“Because of this, I let (athletic director) Dan Guerrero know that I wanted to return the one-year contract extension I received after the 2013-14 season. This request has since been processed.”

The nullification of the one-year extension, signed after Alford’s first Sweet 16 run with the Bruins in 2013-14, would mean that the coach is only attached to the program until April 2020. Perhaps more importantly, it would also adjust his buyout terms to what was stipulated in his original contract.

Under those terms, Alford’s buyout drops to $7.8 million on April 30, to $5.2 million on the same date in 2017, and to $2.6 million in 2018. If UCLA were to dismiss Alford, it would pay him in monthly installments through April 30, 2020. Those payments would be reduced if Alford were to gain other sources of income.

See the full letter below: Continue reading “UCLA coach Steve Alford returns his extension after losing season” »

UCLA advances in NCAA tourney with 66-50 win over Hawaii

Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the UCLA women’s basketball team had stressed the importance of defense.

It backed up that talk on Saturday, stifling Hawaii in a comfortable 66-50 win to advance to the second round of the postseason. The third-seeded Bruins limited the Rainbow Wahine to making a fifth of their attempts from the field, including just two in the final eight minutes.

Senior guard Nirra Fields led UCLA with 16 points and eight rebounds, and dished out four of the team’s 16 assists. She was one of three Bruins to score in double digits, joining Kennedy Burke (15) and Jordin Canada (10).

Megan Huff paced Hawaii with 18 points, accounting for half of that total from the free-throw line.

UCLA will play No. 6 seed South Florida on Monday.

UCLA women’s hoops ready to open NCAA tourney vs. Hawaii

» Back in the NCAA Tournament, UCLA women’s basketball is looking to make it past the second round for the first time since 1999. First up is No. 14-seed Hawaii at 3:30 p.m.
» UCLA forward Kacy Swain has found success with the third-seeded Bruins despite dealing with Type 1 diabetes.