John Savage’s path to UCLA paved by work and chance

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

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Tickets to Fullerton Super Regional on sale

To reach the College World Series for the third time in four years, UCLA needs to get past Cal State Fullerton — a team Bruins coach John Savage called the best in the country. Tickets for this weekend’s best-of-three Super Regional at CSUF’s Goodwin Field went on sale this morning, and can be purchased either through UCLA’s Central Ticket Office (310-825-2101) or the Titans.

All-session tickets range from $25-32, and single-game tickets from $10-20. All games will be broadcast on ESPN2.

UCLA (42-17) at CSUF (51-8)
Friday, June 7, 4 p.m.
Saturday, June 8, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 9, 7 p.m. (if necessary)

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UCLA advances to first back-to-back Super Regional

LOS ANGELES — For much of the weekend, luck carried UCLA. There were hits that bounced off bases, that nicked past outstretched gloves, that swam unseen into the stadium lights.

The Bruins needed no breaks Sunday evening, punching a ticket to the first back-to-back Super Regional in program history. A flurry of early runs coupled with the most dominant pitching performance of the Los Angeles Regional gave UCLA an easy 6-0 win over San Diego and a weekend sweep.

“They’re a juggernaut here at Jackie Robinson Stadium,” USD coach Rich Hill said.

The first inning dragged out to nearly 40 minutes as UCLA battered Toreros starter Max Homick — a lefty who had closed a win over Cal Poly less than an hour ago. Despite facing a lineup loaded with six left-handed batters, the sophomore lasted just 1/3 innings as he saw his season ERA swell by half a run. Continue reading

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Bruins shake off Mustangs with 6-4 comeback victory

LOS ANGELES — A few days before the postseason, UCLA coach John Savage wondered how many fans would pack Jackie Robinson Stadium for the team’s fourth straight hosted regional. Despite two trips to Omaha in the last three seasons, Bruins baseball is hardly the campus’ hottest draw.

Some extra buzz couldn’t hurt.

On Saturday evening, the noise came. The Bruins kickstarted the crowd of 1,749 with an impressive turnaround, spoiling Cal Poly’s no-hit bid with a 6-4 win. UCLA advanced to Sunday’s 6 p.m. tilt against either the Mustangs or San Diego, needing just one more win to reach a Super Regional.

The transformation was palpable. After five feeble innings — no hits, one walk, a 4-0 deficit — the Bruins battered freshman lefty Matt Imhof and sent him to the dugout. First baseman Pat Gallagher led with a drought-ending double that pumped life into the stands, sparking applause and a “Let’s go, Bruins!” chant.

The flame, however small, was lit. UCLA kept stoking it: a single and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, a sac fly for the team’s first run.

The fire came soon. Right fielder Eric Filia singled up the middle to again put three Bruins on. Two at-bats later, Kevin Williams knocked the ball high into right field — a routine pop-up that turned into a base-clearing triple as right fielder Nick Torres lost it in the lights. Tie game. Continue reading

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Plutko seizes postseason wins record, guides Bruins past Aztecs

LOS ANGELES — This wasn’t Adam Plutko at his sharpest.

A three-time all-conference selection, his best doesn’t include mishandling a bunt or hitting a batter on a 0-2 count. But the right-handed hurler never broke as he secured his fifth postseason win in a gutsy effort.

His solid, if unspectacular, outing Friday sufficed as he guided UCLA to a regional-opening 5-3 victory over San Diego State. The Bruins have now moved into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, with a 6 p.m. matchup against Cal Poly looming Saturday.

Along the way, Plutko became the school’s all-time postseason wins leader — passing former Golden Spikes winner and No. 3 draft pick Trevor Bauer. Continue reading

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UCLA draws in-state lineup to Los Angeles Regional

For the fourth straight year, the UCLA baseball team will host an NCAA regional.

The Bruins found out Monday morning they would begin play Friday against San Diego State. The early matchup bodes well for UCLA considering that the Aztecs (31-29, 15-15) made the 64-team postseason field only by winning the Mountain West Tournament. Cal Poly (39-17) and San Diego, which features Kris Bryant and his nation-leading 31 home runs, fill out the rest of the regional lineup.

Should UCLA advance, it could play Cal State Fullerton in the Super Regional. The Titans beat the Bruins 6-3 on May 15, and also won the College World Series in 2004.

All-session tickets ($40-80) can be purchased at UCLABruins.com, but single-game tickets ($8-15) won’t be available until Friday.

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