UCLA beats Cal State Bakersfield to stave off elimination

As the ball tipped over the glove and into the outfield, the UCLA fans cheered.

They had good reason. With the top-seeded Bruins baseball team facing elimination in its own NCAA Regional, a fielding error at shortstop helped extend their season a little longer.

In a 9-1 win over Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday evening at Jackie Robinson Stadium, UCLA turned a one-run lead into a six-run cushion — batting in five unearned runs after Mylz Jones mishandled a likely groundout in the top of the seventh.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to catch a 120-mile per hour knuckleball,” said CSUB coach Bill Kernan. “That’s what that was.”

It was Jones’ 12th error of the season, and likely the most costly of them all. Continue reading

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After upset loss to Maryland, UCLA needs to lean on bullpen

UPDATE: UCLA will start right-handed pitcher Cody Poteet today against Cal State Bakersfield. The junior was the Bruins’ midweek starter most of this season, and has a 6-1 record to go with his 2.65 ERA.

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After losing to Maryland, 4-1, on Saturday night, UCLA baseball needs to win three straight games to advance and host an NCAA Super Regional. For a team that entered the field as the No. 1 overall seed, it’s not where the Bruins expected to be.

The key decision looming for John Savage, recently named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the first time, will be managing his deep pitching staff. With regular Sunday starter Griffin Canning sidelined for the postseason by a stress fracture in his back, Savage has not yet decided who to start against Cal State Bakersfield.

Throwing out the 4 p.m. first pitch against the Roadrunners could be Hunter Virant (0-1, 3.28), Cody Poteet (6-1, 2.65), or Grant Dyer (4-1, 1.86). Should it win, UCLA will also need to play 8 p.m. games on both Sunday and Monday against Maryland to win the NCAA Regional. Continue reading

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UCLA opens NCAA Regional with 7-2 win over CSU Bakersfield

Coaches, as John Savage explained recently, want a little bit of adversity. The 50-year-old is no exception. Currently in charge of what could be the best team in his 11 years at UCLA, the last thing he needs is for wins to come too easily, for the Bruins to start coasting.

But he also needs his team to bounce back from any stumbles — and at this time of the year, to bounce back quickly. He got that on Friday night.

Opening the NCAA Regional as the No. 1 overall seed, UCLA gave up an early one-run lead to Cal State Bakersfield. The Bruins then scored for six straight innings, methodically building a 7-2 victory at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Continue reading

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How have national seeds done in the NCAA baseball tournament?

Starting with tonight’s 8 p.m. first pitch against Cal State Bakersfield, UCLA baseball will begin its journey to become the first No. 1 overall seed to win a national title in more than 15 years. Ticket information can be found here, or can be purchased at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

There’s incredible parity in today’s college baseball landscape, one that can be gleaned just by looking at the recent postseason performance of national seeds. Miami was the last to win the College World Series, doing so in 1999. In the first five years of this current system, only national seeds even earned a chance to play for the title. Since then, only two more have won a championship, while eight more have finished as the runner-up.

The good news for the Bruins that they have never failed to reach the CWS, earning a spot in the final eight as the No. 2 seed in 2012, and playing in the championship series as a No. 6 seed in 2010.

Here is the list of all the national seeds that have made it to Omaha since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams. Teams that won the trophy are bolded, and second-place finishers are in italics. Continue reading

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UCLA’s John Savage wins his first Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor

UCLA coach John Savage is surrounded by players as he hoists the College World Series championship trophy on June 25, 2013. (Eric Francis/AP)

UCLA coach John Savage is surrounded by players as he hoists the College World Series championship trophy on June 25, 2013. (Eric Francis/AP)

Even UCLA’s most accomplished baseball coach can break new ground. On Wednesday, John Savage was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the first time.

Savage had been named national coach of the year by multiple publications in 2013, following the Bruins’ first and only College World Series title. However, the conference’s top honor had eluded him until his 11th season in Westwood, one during which UCLA set a school record with 22 wins in league play.

The Bruins, who lead all Division I teams with a 2.16 ERA, earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament on Monday and will host a regional this weekend. Their first game is against Cal State Bakersfield at 8 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Closer David Berg (7-1, 0.73 ERA) was also named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, becoming the only Bruin to earn the honor twice in his career. Continue reading

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