UCLA Baseball Back in Action Against Pacific

March 23, 2007

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After back-to-back weekends on the road, UCLA returns home to kick-off a three-game series against Pacific, beginning Saturday, March 24, at 6 p.m. Bruin right-hander Tyson Brummett takes the hill Saturday evening in the series-opener. Junior right-handed pitcher Brant Rustich will make his first collegiate start on the mound since May 24, 2005. The Bruins will send freshman left-hander Gavin Brooks to the mound for Monday afternoon's series finale.

Saturday, UCLA - Tyson Brummett (RHP) vs. Pacific - David Rowse (LHP)Sunday, UCLA - Brant Rustich (RHP) vs. Pacific - Hunter Carnevale (RHP)Monday, UCLA - Gavin Brooks (LHP) vs. Pacific - Jake Wild (RHP)

Pacific brings a 6-17-1 record into this weekend's series. Head Coach Ed Sprague has compiled a 86-104-1 overall record (.452) midway through his fourth season. The Tigers dropped two of three games over the weekend against San Jose State. Pacific edged San Jose State, 5-3, in San Jose on Friday. The Spartans downed the Tigers, 7-6, in San Jose on Saturday and won the series finale, 7-6, at Pacific on Sunday. Last season, the Bruins won the first two games of a three-game series at Pacific (Feb. 18-20, 2006). UCLA has totaled a 4-5 mark against Pacific since 1975.

Among the Bruins' hottest hitters include juniors Brady Dolan and Mickey Weisser, freshman Casey Haerther and sophomore Cody Decker. Dolan boasts a .315 average (6-for-19) in UCLA's last seven games after having seen limited action early in the season. Weisser, Haerther and Decker have each posted a .308 batting average over the last seven games. Haerther, a freshman from Chatsworth, Calif., has recorded eight hits in his last 26 at-bats with two doubles, two runs scored, three RBI and one stolen base. Decker has hit at a .307 clip (4-for-13) over UCLA's last four games.

UCLA dropped all three games at San Diego State last weekend. Senior Tyson Brummett was tagged with the loss Friday evening, surrendering four runs (three earned) off eight hits in 4.1 innings. The Bruins lost on Saturday, 12-6, despite out-hitting the Aztecs, 14-11. Senior Tim Stewart led the way with a 2-for-5 performance, including a first inning bases-clearing double. Freshman left-hander Gavin Brooks struck out five in 6.1 innings Sunday afternoon as UCLA's seventh-inning rally came up short in a 5-3 loss.

Junior Alden Carrithers has become a mainstay in the Bruins' lineup as the leadoff hitter all season. The transfer from UC Santa Barbara boasts a .321 batting average (second-best on the club) and has recorded a .343 mark (12-for-35) with runners on-base. A talented second baseman, Carrithers is hitting .333 (7-for-21) with runners in scoring position and .750 (6-for-8) with a runner on third base and less than two outs. The Portland, Ore., product leads UCLA with 84 at-bats and ranks second with 27 hits, 16 runs scored and 34 total bases.

Sophomore Brandon Crawford leads the Bruins' offense in multiple categories, including batting average (.341), hits (28), home runs (3) runs scored (17), RBI (19), total bases (47), slugging percentage (.573), stolen bases (8), on-base percentage (.402) and fielding assists (57). Crawford earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of Feb. 12-18, when the Bruins posted a 4-0 record with a sweep of East Carolina and a Tuesday night victory against UC Riverside.

The Bruins have hit considerably better at home this season than on the road. UCLA sports a .297 average in 10 home games this season, collecting four home runs, 19 doubles and a .401 on-base percentage. UCLA's pitching staff has also fared well at Jackie Robinson Stadium, posting a 3.80 ERA and .241 opponent batting average with 72 strikeouts in 90.0 innings pitched. Right-hander Tyson Brummett leads the staff with a 1.06 home ERA in 17.0 innings pitched (two complete games, 15 strikeouts, one walk), and sophomore Brandon Crawford leads all hitters at home with a .475 average.

According to Boyd's World, a national strength of schedule ranking service, UCLA faces the third-most difficult schedule in the nation this season. The Bruins 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.

Four players on UCLA's roster hail from northern California, within 100 miles of Stockton, Calif. - Sam Ray (Clayton, 40 mi. west), Brandon Crawford (Pleasanton, 50 mi. southwest), Mickey Weisser (Citrus Heights, 65 mi. north) and Andy Suiter (Woodside, 90 mi. southwest). Pacific's Clint Eastman and David Rowse and UCLA's Brandon Crawford reside in Pleasanton, Calif. Crawford (2001-05) and Eastman (1999-2003) played football and baseball at Foothill High School. UCLA's Brant Rustich (1999-2003) and Pacific's Justin Baum (2000-2004) attended Grossmont High School in La Mesa, Calif.

UCLA opens Pac-10 Conference play next weekend when the Bruins travel to face Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., for a three-game series (March 30 - April 1). UCLA has totaled a 134-185 all-time record against Stanford. Last season, The Bruins captured two of three games against the Cardinal, winning the first and third games of a three-game set at Jackie Robinson Stadium (May 19-21).

Sophomore catcher Ryan Babineau has played in all 21 games, earning 20 starts as the Bruins' catcher. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident has thrown out six of 21 attempted base stealers. Babineau has thrown out 21 of 58 attempted base stealers in his career at UCLA (36.2 percent). A freshman All-America selection by Baseball America in 2006, Babineau has committed one error in 593 career chances (524 putouts, 69 assists). Last year, he caught 56 of the Bruins' 58 games and helped lead the pitching staff to the second-lowest ERA in the Pac-10 (3.77).

Brant Rustich will transition from the closer to a starter when he takes the mound Sunday in game two against Pacific. UCLA has used four 'Saturday starters' - Paul Schmidt, Brendan Lafferty (twice), Matt Drummond and Tim Murphy (twice). Rustich last started on May 24, 2005 in a 3-2 loss at UC Riverside. This season, the right-hander has totaled a 5.40 ERA in 10 appearances and has registered 10 strikeouts and four saves in 11.2 innings. He has allowed one run off one hit in his last four appearances (7.0 IP, 4 K). Rustich served as the closer before getting injured in mid-February last season (1.50 ERA, 1-0, 2 SV, 10 K, 6.0 IP). In 2005, he struck out 53 batters in 62.0 innings (21 appearances, 11 starts).

While UCLA is hitting just .230 in night games this season, sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford has excelled under the lights. Through 11 night contests, Crawford has posted a .439 batting average (18-for-41) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs, seven runs scored and nine RBI. Senior outfielder Will Penniall has also performed well under the lights this season, recording a .333 average (7-for-21) with one double and two runs scored.

Through 21 regular-season games, the Bruins have tallied a 6-4 mark at Jackie Robinson Stadium. UCLA took two of three games from No. 23 Winthrop to open the season (Feb. 2-4), picked up a Tuesday evening victory against UC Riverside (Feb. 13) and swept East Carolina (Feb. 16-18). The Bruins' three losses at home came on Saturday, Feb. 3 against Winthrop, 6-4, and versus Cal State Fullerton by scores of 7-4 (Feb. 24) and 7-2 (Feb. 25). Last season, UCLA recorded a 19-12 mark at home. The Bruins have 20 remaining home games.

Playing a road schedule that has featured weekend trips to Coral Gables, Fla. (Miami), Oxford, Miss. (Ole Miss), and San Diego (San Diego State), the Bruins have traveled roughly 9,734 miles this season, round trips included. UCLA played at the University of Miami (2,744 mi.) in the second weekend of the season, traveled locally for a game at Long Beach State (35 mi.) and Cal State Fullerton (42 mi.), and spent the last two weekends at the University of Mississippi (1,900 mi.) and San Diego State (135 mi.). UCLA's road slate includes trips to Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Washington State.

UCLA began the season ranked No. 13 by Baseball America and has fallen out of all five major polls. Following the season-opening series win versus Winthrop, the Bruins rose to the No. 11 spot. UCLA fell to No. 15 after losing at Miami and dropped to No. 23 after a series loss to Cal State Fullerton.

With spring training in full swing, nine former UCLA ballplayers have earned a spot on an MLB 40-man roster. Garrett Atkins (Colorado), Eric Byrnes (Arizona), Jeff Conine (Cincinnati), Ben Francisco (Cleveland), Troy Glaus (Toronto), Casey Janssen (Toronto), Adam Melhuse (Oakland), Dave Roberts (San Francisco) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia) will report to their respective teams training facilities as a member of the 40-man roster. Left-hander Jim Parque, who has not pitched in the major leagues since 2003, agreed to a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners on Feb. 2.

Sophomore Blair Dunlap and freshman Jeff Rapoport are unavailable to play due to shoulder injuries. Senior Nolan Rouse (arm) and freshman Corey Ashner (hamstring) are also unavailable to play this weekend against Pacific.

UCLA was selected fourth in the Pac-10 Conference's preseason coaches poll. The Bruins were picked to finish behind Arizona State, Oregon State, and Stanford, respectively. Last season, UCLA was selected eighth in the preseason poll and finished third in the Pac-10 with a 13-10 conference mark (33-25 overall).

Baseball America selected UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 title in 2007. The publication projected the Bruins to join Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was selected to Baseball America's preseason All-Pac-10 Team, and right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer was listed as the Pac-10's fifth-best newcomer. The magazine projected Brant Rustich as the Pac-10's ninth-best pro prospect in 2007. In its ranking of 'best tools' within the Pac-10, Baseball America named Crawford as the 'best athlete,' 'best defensive shortstop' and infielder with the 'best arm.' The publication listed Ryan Babineau as the catcher with the 'best arm,' Jermaine Curtis as 'best defensive third baseman,' right-hander Tyson Brummett with the 'best changeup' and outfielder Jeff Rapoport as the 'fastest runner.'

Sophomore Brandon Crawford spent his summer playing for the U.S. National Team and helped lead Team USA to the FISU (International University Sports Federation) World Championship after the club posted a 28-2-1 overall mark. Crawford played in 23 games, starting 10, and hit .257 (9-for-35). He collected two doubles, six RBI, seven runs, three walks and one stolen base.

The 2007 schedule features games in three contentinal U.S. time zones - Pacific, Central (at Mississippi) and Eastern (at Miami). Overall, the Bruins will play at 13 different ballparks during the regular season, including Jackie Robinson Stadium. Aside from the trips to Coral Gables, Fla., Oxford, Miss., and San Diego and games at Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, UCLA will play at Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.), USC, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Pepperdine (Malibu, Calif.), Arizona State (Tempe, Ariz.) and Washington State (Pullman, Wash.).

Sophomore Brandon Crawford has been named to the 2007 Wallace Watch List, the College Baseball Foundation announced in November. The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year. Crawford, shortstop who hails from Pleasanton, Calif., joins nine other Pac-10 baseball players on the 2007 Wallace Watch List. The list of 148 ballplayers will be trimmed to 12 semi-finalists by late May. The selection committee will narrow the list to three finalists following the NCAA Super Regionals.

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