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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Pac-12 links: An inside look at the life of a basketball recruit

» Worth reading: An inside look at the recruitment of Marvin Clark Jr., a one-time Oregon commit whose future flickered when he fractured his foot.

» Former USC coach Lane Kiffin’s three-year contract as Alabama’s offensive coordinator will pay him $680,000 for the first two years, then $714,000 in the third.

» Arizona State may ban beer kegs at its tailgates. Continue reading

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Three UCLA players named to All-Pac-12 baseball team

An injury-riddled UCLA baseball team just finished with its worst record in nearly a decade, but the Pac-12 still recognized some of the team’s top talent.

Three Bruins earned spots on the 32-man All-Pac-12 team, including closer David Berg, who became the fifth UCLA player to make three all-conference teams. He joins Dennis Delany (1976-78), Garrett Atkins (1998-2000), Trevor Bauer (2009-11), and Adam Plutko (2011-13).

Berg struggled with injuries this spring after making 101 appearances through his first two seasons at UCLA, but still recorded a 1.50 ERA and 11 saves through 31 outings.

Also honored on the all-conference squad were starting pitcher James Kaprielian and catcher Shane Zeile. Kaprielian was 14th in the country with 108 strikeouts, while Zeile led the team by batting .324 with 70 hits and 28 RBI.

After losing several key players before the season even started, UCLA lost 10 straight games in May and finished 25-30-1 overall and placed ninth (12-18) in the Pac-12. It was the team’s worst record since 2005, when head coach John Savage debuted with a 15-41 (4-20) campaign.

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UCLA football, men’s basketball APR scores trending up

Both UCLA football and men’s basketball teams have earned their highest academic progress rates in a decade.

The former scored a four-year APR of 979 for the 2012-13 academic year, second in the Pac-12 behind Stanford. The program’s multi-year score has improved each year since it recorded a 915 in 2004-05.

Basketball was seventh in the conference at 969 — a significant improvement from the 951, 942 and 948 it scored in the three prior academic years.

Head coach Jim Mora earned a $50,000 bonus for having the football team reach an APR of at least 930, and a graduation success rate of more than 56 percent. Steve Alford earned a $10,000 bonus for having the men’s basketball team clear an APR of 925.

To compete in the NCAA postseason, teams must have a minimum four-year APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930. Starting in 2014-15, that bar rises to 930 and 940.

The five UCLA teams that earned perfect single-year APR scores of 1,000 were baseball, women’s cross country, women’s volleyball, women’s water polo and women’s golf — which also scored perfectly on its four-year average. Continue reading

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UCLA loses three-game series to USC for the first time since 2008

UPDATE: With a 7-4 loss on Saturday, UCLA suffered a sweep to USC for the first time since 2005.

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With two losses to open the weekend, UCLA baseball has dropped a three-game series to USC for the first time since 2008.

The Bruins lost 3-2 on Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, falling to 22-18 on the season and 9-8 in Pac-12 play. They had dropped a 10-0 decision to the Trojans on Thursday, a game that ended a nine-game streak over their crosstown rivals

Riddled by injuries as well as significant losses to the MLB, UCLA looks like an unlikely bet to defend its first-ever national title. Without starting pitchers Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, the team’s ERA has risen from 2.55 to 3.01 entering this series.

It is also now 7-8 in one-run games after going 17-2 during the 2013 championship run.

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