Is UCLA baseball ready to make a run after 2015’s sudden ending?

Outfielder Eric Filia (4) was a crucial part of UCLA's national title run in 2013, but missed the last two seasons due to injury and an academic suspension. (Ted Kirk/Associated Press)

Outfielder Eric Filia (4) was a crucial part of UCLA’s national title run in 2013, but missed the last two seasons due to injury and an academic suspension. As a senior, he is expected to be the Bruins’ biggest bat. (Ted Kirk/Associated Press)

The UCLA baseball team clinched the No. 1 overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but sputtered out against Maryland in the regional round. Heading into John Savage’s 12th season, are the Bruins ready to make a deeper run despite the departures of several stars?

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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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