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 baseball picked as No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament

UCLA baseball is going into the postseason with a huge target on its back.

The Bruins, who just finished one of their most successful regular seasons ever, received their first-ever No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament this morning. They will host the Los Angeles Regional starting on Friday, playing their first game at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) against Cal State Bakersfield.

The winner will advance to face either Ole Miss or Maryland, who play beforehand at 4 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

After missing the postseason entirely last year, UCLA (42-13, 22-7) set a new school record for conference wins this spring and clinched its third Pac-12 title in five years. It enters the field of 64 with the nation’s lowest ERA (2.16).

This is the fifth time in six seasons that the Bruins are starting the postseason at home, and the third time they have earned a top-eight national seed since 2010. Should they advance to host an NCAA Super Regional, they could very well face USC. The Trojans are playing in the Lake Elsinore Regional, in a four-team field that includes Virginia, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State.

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UCLA baseball sets school record with 22nd conference win

This might be UCLA’s best baseball team yet.

The No. 2 Bruins beat Oregon, 4-3, on Friday night, plating the go-ahead run on a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth inning. The victory moved them to 22-6 in Pac-12 play, setting a new school record for conference wins. UCLA won 21 league games on their way to the national title in 2013, as well as in 1986 and 1979.

A three-run third inning gave the Bruins an early 3-1 lead, but the Ducks tied the game with a series of singles in the eighth. UCLA shortstop Kevin Kramer drew a four-pitch walk against reliever Garrett Cleavinger to push his team ahead.

The team already clinched its third conference title in five years by sweeping Arizona last weekend, but it can still set more milestones. Two more wins to close out the regular season would give UCLA a 44-12 record. The Bruins’ best-ever regular season came five years ago, when they went 43-13 and reached the College World Series final.

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UCLA baseball to play USC in Dodgertown Classic

UCLA beat USC, 6-1, at the Dodgertown Classic at Dodger Stadium in front of more than 14,000 fans on Sunday, February 28, 2010. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA beat USC, 6-1, at the Dodgertown Classic at Dodger Stadium in front of more than 14,000 fans on Sunday, February 28, 2010. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Tickets have gone on sale for the return of the Dodgertown Classic, which will feature UCLA vs. USC and Vanderbilt vs. TCU on Sunday, March 8.

The event is going back to Chavez Ravine after a two-year break, though it is billed simply as the “Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic” this year rather than by its old name. The Bruins and Trojans are scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m., following an 11:45 a.m. first pitch between the defending NCAA champion Commodores and the Horned Frogs. The UCLA-USC game will also be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

“Our program is very excited to get the opportunity to play at Dodger Stadium,” UCLA coach John Savage said in a statement. “We thank the Dodgers organization for hosting a great day of college baseball and we are looking forward to having our fans come out and support the Bruins.” 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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