UCLA baseball to play USC in Dodgertown Classic

UCLA beat USC, 6-1, at the Dodgertown Classic at Dodger Stadium in front of more than 14,000 fans on Sunday, February 28, 2010. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA beat USC, 6-1, at the Dodgertown Classic at Dodger Stadium in front of more than 14,000 fans on Sunday, February 28, 2010. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Tickets have gone on sale for the return of the Dodgertown Classic, which will feature UCLA vs. USC and Vanderbilt vs. TCU on Sunday, March 8.

The event is going back to Chavez Ravine after a two-year break, though it is billed simply as the “Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic” this year rather than by its old name. The Bruins and Trojans are scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m., following an 11:45 a.m. first pitch between the defending NCAA champion Commodores and the Horned Frogs. The UCLA-USC game will also be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

“Our program is very excited to get the opportunity to play at Dodger Stadium,” UCLA coach John Savage said in a statement. “We thank the Dodgers organization for hosting a great day of college baseball and we are looking forward to having our fans come out and support the Bruins.” Continue reading

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UCLA looks to bounce back from 2014′s ninth-place Pac-12 finish

UCLA closer David Berg pitches against Cal State Fullerton in the 2013 NCAA Super Regional. Berg returned for his senior season in 2015, turning down a 17th-round draft selection by the Texas Rangers. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA closer David Berg pitches against Cal State Fullerton in the 2013 NCAA Super Regional. Berg returned for his senior season in 2015, turning down a 17th-round draft selection by the Texas Rangers. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA baseball placed ninth in the Pac-12 last season, an injury-riddled down year that marked its first finish outside the conference’s top three since 2005 — head coach John Savage’s debut season.

Two years removed from their first NCAA title, the Bruins enter 2015 with a mix of experience and young talent as they set their sights on another trip to Omaha. Most notable is the pitching staff, which features Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year candidate James Kaprielian and star closer David Berg. The season starts at 6 p.m. today, with a weekend series against Hofstra.

A few notes that didn’t make the season preview, which ran in today’s paper and also touches on the potential effects of the sport’s new flat-seam ball:

– Asked if he learned anything in particular from last season’s ninth-place finish, Savage said: “Confidence is very fragile. This is a very humbling game. You’re really only as good as your last game. That’s how I look at it. Maybe when I get away and look at the big picture, it’s a little different. But you’re competitive. You don’t like taking the losses that we took last year. You want to fight. You want to compete.” Continue reading

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UCLA retires Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across all sports

Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is now painted on both sides of UCLA's midfield logo at the Rose Bowl.

Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is now painted on both sides of UCLA’s midfield logo at the Rose Bowl. The number has been retired across all Bruin sports.

UCLA has retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across all sports, honoring the former four-star athlete and civil rights pioneer 75 years after he first enrolled as Bruin.

The school announced the news between the first and second quarters of UCLA’s rivalry game on Saturday against USC. The No. 42 was also painted on both sides of the midfield logo at the Rose Bowl, and adorned the Bruins’ helmets.

“Jackie Robinson established a standard of excellence to which people the world over should aspire,” said athletic director Dan Guerrero. Continue reading

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UCLA athletic facilities collectively named to honor Jackie Robinson

UCLA athletic facilities have now been named to honor former Bruin star and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson, the school announced Friday afternoon.

The Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex will be the new umbrella name that includes 22 different buildings, including Pauley Pavilion, Spaulding Field, the John Wooden Center, and just about any other on-campus venue you can think of.

Robinson arrived on the UCLA campus 75 years ago, and went on to star in four sports. The man who broke baseball’s color barrier was an honorable All-American in football, the conference scoring leader in basketball, and an NCAA champion in the broad jump.

“Jackie Robinson’s name and his legacy are an honor to this university, and to all the students and student-athletes who will continue to be inspired by his courage, dignity and grace,” UCLA chancellor Gene Block said in a statement. “Jackie detested injustice, fought for civil rights and his spirit of breaking barriers has been and always will be a guiding force of UCLA past, present and future.”

UCLA players will wear the Robinson’s No. 42 on their helmets for Saturday’s game against USC at the Rose Bowl. The number will also be painted on the 25-yard line.

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David Berg returns to UCLA, but will No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken join him?

UCLA ended the week on a great note.

Closer David Berg, named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and a first-team All-American in 2013, elected to return to the Bruins for his senior season — turning down a chance to go pro after being selected by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round.

Shortly after his announcement, even bigger news dropped: the Houston Astros failed to sign a pair of high schoolers in No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-round selection Jacob Nix. Both pitchers originally signed with UCLA in November, but could elect to enroll at a junior college or join an independent league, making themselves available to reenter the draft next year.

If they decide to go to UCLA, they will need to stay at least three years before going pro.

Regardless, Berg’s decision is a tremendous boon to a team that is coming off a 25-30-1 season, its worst mark since head coach John Savage first arrived on campus in 2005. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Brady Aiken, Jacob Nix remain unsigned as MLB deadline nears

» No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, both of whom signed with UCLA, have yet to come to terms with the Houston Astros. The deadline to sign draft picks is Friday at 2 p.m. PT.

» Most fans aren’t happy with Utah’s newest mountain-sleeved Under Armour jerseys.

» Hall of Famer and former USC star Ronnie Lott calls Oregon “the greatest,” but admitted that UCLA is “the team that everybody’s talking about right now.”

» Oregon State’s new basketball assistants will earn a combined $535,008 annually. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Arizona linebacker cheers on former teammate in World Cup

» As the World Cup rolls on, a Arizona linebacker cheers on a former teammate who has since become a reserve defender on the U.S. national team.

» Former Washington coach Jim Lambright was arrested for domestic violence for allegedly assaulting his granddaughter. His wife said he is suffering from dementia.

» As a result of Oregon’s poorly handled sexual assault investigation, everybody lost.

» Going to the Hawaii Bowl cost Oregon State $170,000, but athletic director Bob de Carolis said the deficit could have been worse. Continue reading

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Relief pitchers David Berg, Jake Ehret become final Bruins taken in MLB draft

A pair of relief pitchers capped the MLB draft for UCLA on Saturday, becoming the third and fourth Bruins taken this year.

Star closer David Berg went to the Texas Rangers in the 17th round as the 516th overall pick, 91 selections after teammate Jake Ehret was drafted in the 14th round by the Cincinnati Reds. Lightly recruited out of Bishop Amat High, Berg made 101 appearances in his first two seasons at UCLA — setting an NCAA single-season record with 24 saves during the team’s 2013 national championship run. He also became the first reliever to win Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.

Limited by strained bicep for part of his junior season, Berg still finished with a 1.50 ERA and 11 saves. Ehret had a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings as a righty setup man.

UCLA signee Griffin Canning, another right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the 38th round by the Colorado Rockies.

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Catcher Shane Zeile drafted No. 160 overall as Tigers’ fifth-round pick

UCLA catcher Shane Zeile was taken in the fifth round of the MLB draft on Friday, becoming the first current Bruin off the board.

The junior went No. 160 overall to the Detroit Tigers after leading UCLA in nearly every hitting category, including a .324 batting average and 28 RBI. A former infielder, the All-Pac-12 selection successfully converted to catcher and started 105 games behind home plate over the last two seasons. Continue reading

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How much will the MLB draft hurt UCLA baseball’s recruiting class?

Each June, living rooms across the country erupt as college baseball programs groan.

The MLB draft pushes scores of teens toward their pro dreams, but also guts the recruiting classes UCLA has suffered its share of the burden, losing five recruits last year — including a pair of 11th-round selections.

The blows are coming earlier this time, which at least makes for less guesswork on the part of the coaches. Lefty Brady Aiken was as good as gone even before he officially became the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday, as the UCLA signee was already a consensus top-three prospect. The first high school pitcher selected first since 1991 is in line to sign for just shy of $8 million, and the Astros certainly wouldn’t have risked the top pick without confidence they could ink him.

The same likely goes for righty Grant Hockin out of La Verne’s Damien High, who was picked 61st overall by the Cleveland Indians. Continue reading

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