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
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