UCLA baseball hires LMU’s Bryant Ward as assistant coach

UCLA baseball has hired Bryant Ward away from Loyola Marymount, filling in a spot on its staff that opened a month ago.

Ward will serve as the Bruins’ assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, overseeing the infield and hitting instruction the same way T.J. Bruce did for the past five years. Bruce, a tenacious recruiter, took Nevada’s head coaching job in late June.

Ward appears to be cast out of a similar mold. At LMU, he helped pull in a top-25 recruiting class in 2011, the school’s first in 15 years — and replicated the feat two years later. The East Carolina alum also coached previously at the University of South Florida and Cal State Fullerton.

His two-year tenure with the Titans (2005-06) put him on the same staff as former UCLA assistant Rick Vanderhook, who just completed his fourth season as CSUF head coach.

“We are very excited about Bryant joining the program,” UCLA head coach John Savage said in a statement. “He is a dedicated coach who excels at teaching infielders and is an outstanding recruiter. He will bring tremendous passion and energy to the program.”

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Pac-12 links: Why Ben Howland went to Mississippi State

» Ben Howland still has photos of his Santa Barbara house on his phone, but he’s temporarily given up the comforts of Southern California for Starkville — a place that has given him another chance to coach basketball.

» Charges against Dominique Hatfield have been dropped after an alleged armed robbery, opening the door to a possible return for the Utah cornerback.

» An Oregon State student saved a woman from a burning car. Continue reading

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UCLA assistant TJ Bruce leaves to coach Nevada baseball

UCLA baseball assistant TJ Bruce has taken the head job at Nevada, becoming the latest member of John Savage’s growing coaching tree.

Bruce, who turned 33 in March, always seemed bound for a bigger opportunity. He had served as the Bruins’ infield coach for the past five years, as well as their hitting assistant. But one of his primary duties was recruiting coordinator, where he helped the program reel in three top-10 classes.

After UCLA won its first College World Series title in 2013, I asked Bruce what he had planned as a celebration. He was set to hit the recruiting trail the next day. Continue reading

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UCLA finishes second in 2014-15 Directors’ Cup standings

UCLA finished second in the latest Directors’ Cup standings, its highest placement in seven years.

The Bruins were behind only Stanford, which has won the award 21 straight times — missing out only when the inaugural trophy went to North Carolina in 1994. UCLA edged out USC for second place with 1,236 points to the Trojans’ 1,209.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero will receive a $30,000 bonus as a result — half for finishing in the top 10 percent of Division I schools, and half for finishing in the top 10. Through Guerrero’s 13-year tenure in Westwood, UCLA has missed the top 10 only twice (2008-09 and 2010-11).

This marks the first time the Bruins have finished second since 2007-08, the third of three straight years as the nation’s No. 2. They have placed top-three in three of the past four years.

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UCLA’s David Berg named top relief pitcher in college baseball

UCLA closer David Berg pitches against Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA Super Regionals on June 7, 2013. Berg won the first of his two NCBWA Stopper of the Year awards later that month. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA closer David Berg pitches against Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA Super Regionals on June 7, 2013. Berg won the first of his two NCBWA Stopper of the Year awards later that month. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

When UCLA’s season ended earlier this month, John Savage wanted to make something clear: David Berg was finishing his career as the greatest reliever in college baseball history.

Berg certainly has a good argument. On Saturday, he became the only two-time winner of the NCBWA’s Stopper of the Year award, given each year to the top reliever in the country. The Bruins’ star closer had also won during his team’s title run in 2013, when he set an NCAA single-season record with 24 saves.

As a senior, he was just as good, also earning him his second Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year award. He only had 13 saves — playing in fewer close games — but was second in the country with a 0.68 ERA. He allowed just one run in conference play, notching a 0.22 ERA in 22 appearances. He paired with eventual first-round pick James Kaprielian for the first no-hitter in school history.

Earlier this week, Berg was taken in the fourth round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs, justifying his decision to turn down a 17th-round selection by the Texas Rangers last year and return for his senior year.

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