Arguably the most successful baseball coach in UCLA history, John Savage has reached a new milestone: 400 wins.
The 12th-year head coach earned that victory in dramatic fashion on Sunday night, as the No. 14 Bruins (6-5) pushed past USC, 5-3, in a 14-inning thriller. Senior outfielder Christoph Bono batted in UCLA’s go-ahead runs with a bases-loaded chopper in the top of the final frame at Dodger Stadium.
Savage now has a 27-14 record against the Trojans, more wins than he has against any other opponent. The two teams will meet again on May 13 to start a three-game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The 51-year-old now is the fourth active Pac-12 coach to hit the 400-win threshold, joining Stanford’s Mark Marquess, Oregon State’s Pat Casey, and Cal’s David Esquer — and is the only one except Marquess to do it in fewer than 12 full seasons.
He remains the Bruins’ third-winningest coach behind Gary Adams (985) and Art Reichle (747), but holds a higher winning percentage (.592) and brought back the program’s only national title in 2013. Savage is under contract through 2025.
The Bruins finished the regular season with a 15-16 record and 6-12 in the Pac-12 — their worst conference mark since 2002-03, which was the final year of the Steve Lavin era. This loss also sets up a rematch in the Pac-12 Tournament against seventh-seeded USC.
No. 10-seed UCLA, which has already lost twice to the Trojans by 33 combined points, will tip off against its crosstown rival again on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Former USC tight end Caleb Wilson will transfer to UCLA, giving the Bruins an additional body at a position with a thin depth chart.
The move, which was first reported by Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer, comes nearly three months after the Trojans dismissed his father, defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who has since landed at Missouri. Caleb had originally committed to Old Dominion as a quarterback in January 2015 before deciding to walk on at USC. He redshirted his first season with the Trojans.
The Gardena Serra product has good size at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds — something UCLA could use as it transitions to a more pro-style offense. The Bruins, who lose four of their top five pass-catchers from 2015, signed three-star tight end Jordan Wilson last month, and will likely move some returning players to the position as well.
Caleb Wilson told TrojanSports.com in December that USC coach Clay Helton granted him a release without any restrictions. Because he was not a scholarship player with the Trojans, Wilson is not subject to the Pac-12 rule dictating that intra-conference transfers must sit out a year and lose an additional year of eligibility.
Thomas Welsh talked about UCLA’s 80-61 loss at USC, one that the Bruins’ opened by falling into a 9-0 hole. According to the sophomore center, the ugly offensive start trickled into the team’s defensive play too.
“That’s not the way it should be,” he said. “You should always be able to play hard on the defensive side of the ball, but we just weren’t making shots. It was downhill from there.”