Notes: UCLA sets numerous marks in title run

» John Savage’s two championship teams finished with identical 49-17 records. He earned his first ring as a USC pitching coach in 1998, in a 21-14 victory over Arizona State that saw the teams combine for eight home runs.

“I looked at the record yesterday, and I had a good feeling we were going to end up with the same amount of wins, the same amount of losses,” Savage said after beating Mississippi State 8-0 Tuesday night, earning his first as UCLA’s head coach. “I knew the game wasn’t going to be 21-14, thank God.”

Sixty-two home runs were hit during the 1998 CWS. This year’s saw just three. His team is built as a polar opposite to those “Gorilla Ball” squads, one that squeezes in just enough offense to complement defense and pitching. The Bruins took the bumpier road and sped along untouched, downing No. 5 seed Fullerton, No. 4 seed LSU and No. 1 seed UNC through the postseason.

“I don’t think any of the experts thought we would be here at this stage, and we did it the right way,” Savage said. “We played baseball.”

» UCLA’s pitchers combined for a 0.80 ERA in the College World Series, the lowest mark in the aluminum bat era (since 1974). The Bruins were also the first team to ever run through Omaha without allowing more than one run in any game.

The superlative defense, marked by the play of all-tournament shortstop Pat Valaika, helped hold opponents to 1-27 with runners in scoring position. Continue reading

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College World Series all-tournament team

Catcher: Brian Holberton, North Carolina
First base: Wes Rea, Mississippi State
Second base: Brett Pirtle, Mississippi State
Third base: Colin Moran, North Carolina
Shortstop: Pat Valaika, UCLA
Outfield: Michael Conforto, Oregon State
Outfield: Eric Filia, UCLA
Outfield: Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State
DH: Trey Porter, Mississippi State
Pitcher: Adam Plutko, UCLA
Pitcher: Nick Vander Tuig, UCLA

Most Outstanding Player: Adam Plutko UCLA

Votes were cast by the present media. Ballots were filed by the eighth inning of the final game.

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John Savage, UCLA knock down championship doors


OMAHA, Neb. — Before the season started, the UCLA baseball team walked into one of the national championship rooms on campus and gazed up and down the walls: 108 NCAA titles, but none credited to them.

That changed Tuesday night, the Bruins capping a perfect run through the postseason with an 8-0 stomping of Mississippi State. There had been grumbles all week long about UCLA’s lack of hitting, myriad suggestions that the walls needed to move in or the bats fixed or the balls changed.

No more. The Bruins owned the night, one closed with a dogpile as fireworks lit up behind the left field bleachers. Players eight-clapped to the adoring fans that had traveled to Omaha for them, mugging for pictures as they stretched the celebrations out as long as possible.

“We’ve been close,” coach John Savage said. “We’ve been knocking on the door. We knocked on the door in ’10, we knocked on the door in ’12. We knocked it down in ’13.” Continue reading

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UCLA dominates Bulldogs, wins first-ever baseball title

OMAHA, Neb. — John Savage and his UCLA team have a few well-worn phrases.

Among them: execution, pass the baton, Bruin baseball. After three trips to Omaha in four years, they can add “championship” to the vocabulary.

There is utility in cliche. UCLA raised its first-ever national championship trophy Tuesday night after an 8-0 win over Mississippi State, embodying all those phrases on a run marked by stunning consistency.

In all five of their victories at TD Ameritrade Park, the Bruins (49-17) allowed no more than a single run. Along they way, they laid down 12 bunts, tying a CWS record set by Santa Clara in 1962. It was small ball at its finest, the prize at the end perhaps silencing protests that UCLA had lucked its way to wins.

“Anybody that questions us now, I don’t think knows the game,” Savage said. Continue reading

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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

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Bruins sweep Fullerton, earn second straight trip to College World Series

FULLERTON — For the first time in school history, UCLA has punched back-to-back trips to Omaha.

With a 3-0 win over Super Regional host Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, the Bruins are headed to the College World Series for the third time in four years. Coach John Savage — who over nine years became the architect of a national power — earned his 27th postseason victory, setting a new UCLA record.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of our program,” he said. Continue reading

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Three Bruins taken in Day 2 of MLB Draft

RHP Nick Vander Tuig — San Francisco Giants, 6th round, No. 192
RHP Zack Weiss — Cincinnati Reds, 6th round, No. 195
SS Pat Valaika — Colorado Rockies, 9th round, No. 259

The big surprise was the absence of Adam Plutko, a three-time all-conference pitcher who nevertheless slipped past 10 rounds. He went off the board early today, going No. 321 overall to the Cleveland Indians. If he signs, he’ll join former teammate and Golden Spikes winner Trevor Bauer.

Bruin signees Dom Nunez — a third baseman out of Elk Grove — and righty pitcher Dustin Driver were taken No. 169 overall by the Rockies and No. 221 overall by the Athletics, respectively. Steven Farinaro went to the Cardinals in the 11th round (No. 335).

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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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David Berg, Pat Valaika win Pac-12 honors

David Berg was officially crowned the conference’s best pitcher Wednesday afternoon, but coaches likely kicked themselves sore long before then.

Lightly recruited out of Bishop Amat High, the sidewinder came out of nowhere a year ago to lead the league in ERA (1.46) and set a record for appearances (50). As a sophomore, he became Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year with an even more dominant effort, one that has seen him collect a school-record 18 saves.

A quick run down of some other impressive numbers: a 0.70 ERA, best in the country; 0.78 WHIP, second in the country; 64 innings pitched, only 6.2 behind midweek starter Cody Poteet.

“You can’t really have a year as a reliever than he’s had this year,” coach John Savage said. “You’re talking about innings, hits per innings, walks per nine. You’re talking about strikeouts, saves, wins. He’s done it all. He should be up for not only Pitcher of the Year, but Player of the Year.”

Berg entered the season as a setup man, the position he’ll likely play in the pros, but became the closer when freshman reliever James Kaprielian was injured early in the season. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the 6-foot righty became the third Bruin to win Pitcher of the Year — after Trevor Bauer (2011) and Pete Janicki (1992).

“We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Savage said.

Pat Valaika also became the first Bruin to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, bolstering his first appearance on the all-conference team. The junior committed just five errors in 174 chances, tying the lowest mark for Pac-12 shortstops. He also leads the team in multiple hitting categories, including home runs, RBI and slugging percentage.

Pitchers Nick Vander Tuig and Adam Plutko made the All-Pac-12 team for the second and third time, respectively. Outfielder Brian Carroll and infielder Kevin Kramer earned honorable mentions.

Conference champion Oregon State took the other three major awards: sophomore outfielder Michael Conforto won Player of the Year after leading the league in OBP (.457); pitcher Andrew Moore took Freshman of the Year after notching 12 wins; Pat Casey was named Coach of the Year.

You can see the entire all-conference roster below the jump. Continue reading

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