No. 13 UCLA to Face No. 23 Winthrop in Sunday's Rubber Match

Feb. 4, 2007

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No. 23 Winthrop (1-1) at No. 13 UCLA (1-1)
Jackie Robinson Stadium (1,250)
Sunday, Feb. 4 (1 p.m.)

Gavin Brooks, LHP (collegiate debut) vs. Jason Franzblau, RHP (4-1, 3.30)

The 13th-ranked UCLA baseball team looks to defeat 23rd-ranked Winthrop and take the season series, 2-1, when the schools face each other Sunday afternoon. The Bruins hand the ball to freshman Gavin Brooks, who will make his first collegiate start. Game time is 1 p.m. (PST) at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Winthrop scored six times in the third inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit and defeat UCLA, 6-4. UCLA sophomore Jason Novak allowed just four hits in 4.2 scoreless inning of relief and redshirt sophomore Brendan Lafferty limited the Eagles to one hit and no runs in 1.2 innings. Juniors Mickey Weisser and Alden Carrithers both finished 2-for-4, and sophomore Brandon Crawford posted a 2-for-5 performance at the plate. Sophomore Paul Schmidt (0-1) absorbed the loss, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings.

Freshman Gavin Brooks will make his collegiate debut today in the rubber game between UCLA and Winthrop. Brooks threw 3.0 scoreless innings in last weekend's annual Alumni Game. A three-year varsity baseball letterwinner at Rancho Buena Vista High School (Vista, Calif.), Brooks pitched eight scoreless innings and recorded 12 strikeouts as a senior. A 2005 AFLAC All-American, he posted a 6-1 record with 56 strikeouts in 50 innings as a sophomore to earn team 'most outstanding pitcher' honors as a sophomore. A talented student-athlete, Brooks was a Dean's List honoree all four years and earned San Diego Union-Tribune All-Academic accolades as a junior and senior.

Winthrop, located in Rock Hill, S.C., finished second in the Big South Conference in 2006, recording a 46-18 overall record and an appearance in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional. The Eagles return right-handed pitcher Alex Wilson, outfielder Tommy Lentz and shortstop Chris Carrara from last season's team. Winthrop is led by head coach Joe Hudak, who enters his 16th season (542-362-5) as the Eagles' head baseball coach. The Eagles earned an at-large NCAA Tournament bid last season after posting a 24-7 Big South record.

UCLA has earned a No. 13 preseason ranking from Baseball America, a No. 21 mark in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and a No. 26 ranking from Collegiate Baseball. The Bruins' ended the 2000 season ranked No. 15 and finished the 1997 season in the College World Series with a No. 5 national mark (Baseball America). has ranked the Bruins No. 16, and the NCBWA has slotted UCLA at No. 23 in its preseason poll.

According to Boyd's World, a national strength of schedule ranking service, UCLA will face the third-most difficult schedule in the nation. The Bruins will play 20 games against teams ranked in Baseball America's preseason top-25 poll. Likewise, 50 of UCLA's 56 regular-season games are against teams either ranked in or receiving votes in Collegiate Baseball's preseason 'Fabulous 40' poll. The Bruins begin the season with six games against top-25 teams - No. 23 Winthrop and No. 2 Miami.

The UCLA baseball program features 13 newcomers - 10 freshmen and three transfer students. The incoming recruiting class, ranked 13th nationally by Baseball America, is headlined by the 2006 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year (Charles Brewer) and four players selected in the 2006 MLB Draft (Brewer, Matthew Drummond, Raul Duran and Casey Haerther). The Bruins welcome three talented transfers - second baseman Alden Carrithers (UC Santa Barbara), catcher Brent Dean (L.A. Harbor CC) and outfielder Mickey Weisser (Sierra JC). Through the Bruins' first two games, Carrithers (2-for-7) and Weisser (4-for-8) are hitting a combined 6-for-15 (.400).

The Bruins return five position players from the 2006 team, which finished the season ranked first in fielding percentage in the Pac-10 Conference. Anchored by catcher Ryan Babineau, who did not commit an error in 445 chances last season, UCLA returns outfielder Blair Dunlap (1.000), first baseman Tim Stewart (.997), outfielder Tim Murphy (.950), shortstop Brandon Crawford (.949) and sophomore Jermaine Curtis (.908).

Offense should be UCLA's strength this season. After having ranked seventh in the Pac-10 in batting average last season, the Bruins return several reliable bats. Jermaine Curtis led all UCLA regulars in 2006 with a .336 batting average (.390 in Pac-10 play). Also returning to the Bruins' potent lineup are Brandon Crawford (.318 avg, .297 Pac-10), Cody Decker (.302 avg, .450 Pac-10), Tim Stewart (.301 avg, .277 Pac-10), Blair Dunlap (.300 avg, .302 Pac-10), Ryan Babineau (.258 avg, .351 Pac-10) and Tim Murphy (.254 avg).

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