Over the past few weeks, watching UCLA baseball has produced a sense of near-inevitability.
The Bruins’ stellar pitching will keep any game close. They’ll rarely make mistakes. And more often than not, they’ll do just enough to win.
The size of the stage hasn’t changed that. Through two games in the College World Series, they are batting 2-for-27 with runners on base. They have notched one RBI in Omaha. Yet they have scored four runs, beating both LSU and North Carolina State, 2-1.
One more, and they’ll be back in a best-of-three championship series for the second time in four years.
“It’s more mentality for us,” said third baseman Kevin Kramer, who singled in the fifth with bases loaded to score the Bruins’ first run last night. “Like coach says, taking advantage of opportunities. We’re not going to put up any gaudy numbers.” Continue reading →
The Bruins haven’t dominated this season, but that hasn’t stopped the team from reaching the College World Series for the third time in four years. Upon arrival, coach John Savage’s squad showed that small ball works just fine in Omaha too.
Jumping on two errors by No. 4-seeded LSU, UCLA scraped through its CWS opener Sunday evening with a 2-1 victory. The Bruins handed Tigers starter Aaron Nola his first loss of the season, scoring unearned runs in the sixth and eighth inning. Continue reading →
Taking a major-league mound for the first time, Gerrit Cole wasted no time filling his highlight quota.
Two years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Cole first overall out of UCLA, where he struck out 346 batters over three seasons. On Tuesday, he did the same against Gregor Blanco, punching out the the San Francisco Giants leadoff man on three pitches.
Cole also connected for a two-RBI single on his very first at at-bat, giving the Pirates their first two runs in an 8-2 win. He easily outdueled former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum for the victory, finishing with two strikeouts, no walks, two earned runs and seven hits through 6 1/3 innings.
While his overreliance on his fastball could be a concern going forward, the 22-year-old is a potential star on a club chasing its first winning season since 1992.
“He was impressive,” said UCLA coach John Savage, who watched the game with his team after practice. “I thought he filled up the strike zone. He didn’t get ahead of himself. I think you saw a potential No. 1 starter growing up, maturing. I contribute that to going to college, what he went through here, being a Friday night guy for three years. I think he’s just grown up too.”
Q: How much heat is on Dan Guerrero and Gene Block with the Steve Alford hire? Regardless of win/loss he is not of the stature UCLA is used to, especially when the precedent was set by John Wooden.
Considering UCLA just gave Guerrero a new extension, I don’t think he’s in jeopardy unless more goes wrong. Way too much money to terminate him without cause ($734,774 for every year left on his contract) and probably not enough reason to do it with cause. Colorado canned Mike Bohn pretty suddenly, but even that was two years after he signed his extension. I don’t think a chancellor’s job would be in danger over a coaching hire.
Q: How close are you and other beat writers to the status on basketball recruiting? Top targets? Current standing of UCLA with them and how close they are to signing? Continue reading →
– A USC player from the late 1990s and early 2000s says Ed Orgeron called him a “motherf—-r” for leaving practice 20 minutes early once a week for a statistics class. Best quote: “He M-F’d me all over the place.” Orgeron did not comment.
John Savage sat in front of the press late Saturday night and insisted that Cal State Fullerton, the team whose season he’d just ended, was still the best in the country.
“People may not believe me,” the UCLA coach allowed.
Savage had paid the Titans the same compliment before sweeping them in two games — putting the Bruins in the College World Series for the third time in four years. CSUF had entered the weekend with a top-five ERA, top-25 fielding percentage and top-50 home run total. It had lost back-to-back games only once all season, and never dropped a series.
Since the Super Regional format was added in 1999, no team has reached the College World Series more times than Fullerton’s seven. Now the Titans have missed four straight, their longest drought since they first went to Omaha in 1975.
In that same timeframe, only 14 teams had reached Omaha in back-to-back seasons. With 5-3 and 3-0 wins, UCLA became the 15th. Continue reading →
FULLERTON — For the first time in school history, UCLA has punched back-to-back trips to Omaha.
With a 3-0 win over Super Regional host Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, the Bruins are headed to the College World Series for the third time in four years. Coach John Savage — who over nine years became the architect of a national power — earned his 27th postseason victory, setting a new UCLA record.
The big surprise was the absence of Adam Plutko, a three-time all-conference pitcher who nevertheless slipped past 10 rounds. He went off the board early today, going No. 321 overall to the Cleveland Indians. If he signs, he’ll join former teammate and Golden Spikes winner Trevor Bauer.
Bruin signees Dom Nunez — a third baseman out of Elk Grove — and righty pitcher Dustin Driver were taken No. 169 overall by the Rockies and No. 221 overall by the Athletics, respectively. Steven Farinaro went to the Cardinals in the 11th round (No. 335).
It wasn’t easy this time, not after he had blown his second save of the season. But David Berg, UCLA’s electrifying closer, held on through three innings and 54 pitches — helping the Bruins to a 5-3 win in extras over Cal State Fullerton.
A sellout crowd of 3,244 packed the Goodwin Field stands Friday evening for game one of the Super Regional, swaths of orange mixed with generous strokes of blue. Plenty protested the iffy calls and curiously wide strike zone, but after the last out, many murmured: That was some game.
With two outs left in the 10th and the Titans in scoring position, Berg jousted with CSUF’s J.D. Davis. After falling behind on an 0-2 count, the designated hitter fouled off pitch after pitch. Then Berg threw his 11th of the at-bat, a full-count slider that froze Davis. The murmurs: Some pitch. Continue reading →
On June 6, 1983, John Savage graduated from Reno High and became the New York Yankees’ sixth-round draft pick. On June 6, 1986, after a collegiate career at Santa Clara, he was plucked out of the 16th round by the Cincinnati Reds. On June 6, 1992, he was married at Our Lady of the Snows, a red-bricked Reno church that hosted a crowd of about 400 — an unintended coincidence, he insists with a laugh.
But it wasn’t until six years later that Savage, now nearing a decade as UCLA’s head baseball coach, noticed the odd chronology. Then in his second season as USC’s pitching coach, he found himself in Omaha celebrating a national championship. June 6, 1998.
“That’s when it became apparent that day was special to me,” he says.
As June 6 rolls by again, another national championship is perhaps the only hole left on his stellar resume — the bulk of which he’s built in Westwood. Continue reading →