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 pitchers David Berg, Cody Poteet drafted by Cubs, Marlins

UCLA closer David Berg delivers against Mississippi State in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the College World Series on June 24, 2013. Berg earned his 24th save, setting a new NCAA single-season record. (Nati Harnik/AP)

UCLA closer David Berg delivers against Mississippi State in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the College World Series on June 24, 2013. Berg earned his 24th save, setting a new NCAA single-season record. (Nati Harnik/AP)

A day after James Kaprielian became a first-round pick, two more UCLA pitchers were selected in the 2015 MLB Draft.

Relievers Cody Poteet and David Berg were drafted in the fourth and sixth round, respectively, joining the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. They are the latest professional products out of a college program that has become known for its pitching.

Berg, picked No. 173 overall by the Cubs, finished his career as arguably the best closer ever in collegiate baseball. Through four seasons as UCLA, the former walk-on set NCAA records in single-season saves (24 in 2013) and career appearances (175). He is the only Bruin to ever be named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year twice, and was this year’s NCBWA District IX Player of the Year.

Drafted in the 17th round last season, the submariner returned for his senior season and registered a 0.68 ERA, third-best nationally. Last month, he paired with Kaprielian for the first no-hitter in school history.

“David Berg will go down as the best reliever in the history of the game,” UCLA coach John Savage said on June 1, after the Bruins’ season-ending loss to Maryland in the NCAA Regional. “That’s not an overstatement.” Continue reading

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UCLA pitcher James Kaprielian drafted No. 16 overall by Yankees

James Kaprielian was taken by the New York Yankees as No. 16 overall in the MLB Draft, becoming the first UCLA baseball player to go in the first round since 2011.

On Monday, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound pitcher joined a club last entered by Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, fellow right-handers who starred for the Bruins before going No. 1 and 3 overall four years ago. Cole actually helped convince Kaprielian to sign with UCLA.

UCLA coach John Savage said he noticed Kaprielian’s curveball the first time he saw him pitch as a high school sophomore, as well as a “good, physical, projectable body.” Continue reading

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UCLA’s season ends after 4-1 loss to Maryland in NCAA Regional

For the second straight year, the No. 1 overall seed couldn’t make it out of the NCAA Regionals.

This year, UCLA baseball was the one that fell, following Oregon State as the second straight tournament favorite to bow out early. In an elimination game against Maryland, the Bruins couldn’t scratch together enough offense in a 2-1 loss.

Afterward, head coach John Savage sat at the press conference table next to senior closer David Berg — whom he called the best reliever in NCAA history — and redshirt junior shortstop Kevin Kramer. He took the time to thank both: “They made my job a lot easier.”

“The culture of UCLA baseball — it is clearly in a position that we’ve never seen it before,” Savage said. “The last, let’s call it six years, since 2010. … We’re very proud. We have very proud team members. We know what we need to accomplish. We still need to accomplish a lot more.”

Click through to read the full game story from Jackie Robinson Stadium tonight.

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UCLA opens NCAA Regional with 7-2 win over CSU Bakersfield

Coaches, as John Savage explained recently, want a little bit of adversity. The 50-year-old is no exception. Currently in charge of what could be the best team in his 11 years at UCLA, the last thing he needs is for wins to come too easily, for the Bruins to start coasting.

But he also needs his team to bounce back from any stumbles — and at this time of the year, to bounce back quickly. He got that on Friday night.

Opening the NCAA Regional as the No. 1 overall seed, UCLA gave up an early one-run lead to Cal State Bakersfield. The Bruins then scored for six straight innings, methodically building a 7-2 victory at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Continue reading

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