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.
John Savage has groomed a long line of outstanding pitchers at UCLA. None of them ever pulled off what happened on Friday night.
To start the Bruins’ last Pac-12 home series of the season, James Kaprielian and David Berg combined to pitch 10 no-hit innings in a walk-off win over Arizona. It was the first no-hitter since UCLA baseball began taking records in 1946, and the first time the Wildcats had been no-hit since 1970 — eight years before they even joined the conference.
Kaprielian, who leads the league in strikeouts, tied his season-high with 11 at Jackie Robinson Stadium. He was brilliant through nine innings, retiring 14 straight batters from the third to the seventh. Berg, arguably the greatest closer in NCAA history, closed out the 10th before Kevin Kramer plated the winning run on a walk-off sac fly.
Earlier on Friday, UCLA softball began postseason play in a very different style, opening the NCAA Regional by mercy ruling CSUN in a 9-1 win. The Bruins hit three home runs in the third, shelling Matador pitcher Zoe Conley, who had only given up six homers all season.
UCLA is shooting to return to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2010.
Sixty-eight years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
To honor the him, the Bruins will wear “40s era”-inspired retro uniforms on April 16, the start of a three-game series against Cal. UCLA currently leads the Pac-12 with a 12-3 record (26-7 overall), and has yet to lose either a midweek game or a conference series.
Robinson’s No. 42 was already retired last fall through all of UCLA athletics. He lettered in baseball, basketball, football and track as a Bruin.
UCLA beat USC, 6-1, at the Dodgertown Classic at Dodger Stadium in front of more than 14,000 fans on Sunday, February 28, 2010. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)
Tickets have gone on sale for the return of the Dodgertown Classic, which will feature UCLA vs. USC and Vanderbilt vs. TCU on Sunday, March 8.
The event is going back to Chavez Ravine after a two-year break, though it is billed simply as the “Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic” this year rather than by its old name. The Bruins and Trojans are scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m., following an 11:45 a.m. first pitch between the defending NCAA champion Commodores and the Horned Frogs. The UCLA-USC game will also be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
“Our program is very excited to get the opportunity to play at Dodger Stadium,” UCLA coach John Savage said in a statement. “We thank the Dodgers organization for hosting a great day of college baseball and we are looking forward to having our fans come out and support the Bruins.” Continue reading
UCLA closer David Berg pitches against Cal State Fullerton in the 2013 NCAA Super Regional. Berg returned for his senior season in 2015, turning down a 17th-round draft selection by the Texas Rangers. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)
UCLA baseball placed ninth in the Pac-12 last season, an injury-riddled down year that marked its first finish outside the conference’s top three since 2005 — head coach John Savage’s debut season.
Two years removed from their first NCAA title, the Bruins enter 2015 with a mix of experience and young talent as they set their sights on another trip to Omaha. Most notable is the pitching staff, which features Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year candidate James Kaprielian and star closer David Berg. The season starts at 6 p.m. today, with a weekend series against Hofstra.
A few notes that didn’t make the season preview, which ran in today’s paper and also touches on the potential effects of the sport’s new flat-seam ball:
— Asked if he learned anything in particular from last season’s ninth-place finish, Savage said: “Confidence is very fragile. This is a very humbling game. You’re really only as good as your last game. That’s how I look at it. Maybe when I get away and look at the big picture, it’s a little different. But you’re competitive. You don’t like taking the losses that we took last year. You want to fight. You want to compete.” Continue reading