UCLA’s John Savage wins his first Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor

UCLA coach John Savage is surrounded by players as he hoists the College World Series championship trophy on June 25, 2013. (Eric Francis/AP)

UCLA coach John Savage is surrounded by players as he hoists the College World Series championship trophy on June 25, 2013. (Eric Francis/AP)

Even UCLA’s most accomplished baseball coach can break new ground. On Wednesday, John Savage was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the first time.

Savage had been named national coach of the year by multiple publications in 2013, following the Bruins’ first and only College World Series title. However, the conference’s top honor had eluded him until his 11th season in Westwood, one during which UCLA set a school record with 22 wins in league play.

The Bruins, who lead all Division I teams with a 2.16 ERA, earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament on Monday and will host a regional this weekend. Their first game is against Cal State Bakersfield at 8 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Closer David Berg (7-1, 0.73 ERA) was also named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, becoming the only Bruin to earn the honor twice in his career. Continue reading

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UCLA pitcher Griffin Canning out for postseason with stress fracture

UCLA baseball earned its first-ever No. 1 overall seed on Monday, but a potential return trip to Omaha will come without one of their key players.

Starting pitcher Griffin Canning — who has been sidelined for more than two weeks — will likely miss the entire NCAA tournament with a stress fracture in his back, head coach John Savage said Tuesday. The freshman had been the Bruins’ Sunday starter for most of the season until he got injured warming up at Arizona State earlier this month.

“Griffin Canning being hurt is a blow,” Savage said. “There’s no doubt. … That one hurts, because I felt like he was a Sunday starter who was really a (No.) 1 or a 2.” 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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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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