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.

UCLA third baseman Chris Keck out for season with blood clot in arm

UCLA third baseman Chris Keck is out for the season with a blood clot in his arm, the school announced today.

The junior had started 34 games in the infield before sitting out the Bruins’ recent weekend series at Utah. Keck, who hit .215 with 10 RBI, will likely be replaced by redshirt senior Aaron Weimer.

It’s yet another hit to a UCLA roster that has limped through the 2014 season, sitting at 21-16 overall and 9-6 for fifth place in the Pac-12. Continue reading “UCLA third baseman Chris Keck out for season with blood clot in arm” »

Infielder Kevin Kramer may have season-ending surgery

After winning its first national championship, UCLA will open its 2014 season with arguably the thinnest infield of coach John Savage’s tenure.

All-conference honorable mention Kevin Kramer could soon undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, leaving the Bruins with just two returning starters along the base paths: catcher Shane Zeile and first baseman Pat Gallagher. UCLA ranked second in the Pac-12 in fielding last year (.980), but lost shortstop Pat Valaika — the team’s first Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year — and Cody Regis, a 39-game starter at second base.

After starting all 66 games at third base during the Bruins’ 2013 title run, Kramer had been slated to move to shortstop. The team will make a decision on his possible surgery by next Monday. He and Savage had discussed using him exclusively as a designated hitter, but later ruled out that plan.

Infielder Kevin Williams is also battling a shoulder injury, and will be sidelined until mid-March. Continue reading “Infielder Kevin Kramer may have season-ending surgery” »

Small-ball formula has Bruins one win away from title series

Over the past few weeks, watching UCLA baseball has produced a sense of near-inevitability.

The Bruins’ stellar pitching will keep any game close. They’ll rarely make mistakes. And more often than not, they’ll do just enough to win.

The size of the stage hasn’t changed that. Through two games in the College World Series, they are batting 2-for-27 with runners on base. They have notched one RBI in Omaha. Yet they have scored four runs, beating both LSU and North Carolina State, 2-1.

One more, and they’ll be back in a best-of-three championship series for the second time in four years.

“It’s more mentality for us,” said third baseman Kevin Kramer, who singled in the fifth with bases loaded to score the Bruins’ first run last night. “Like coach says, taking advantage of opportunities. We’re not going to put up any gaudy numbers.” Continue reading “Small-ball formula has Bruins one win away from title series” »