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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.