UCLA Baseball to Host UC Irvine in Tuesday Night Meeting

April 9, 2007

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The UCLA baseball team returns to action Tuesday evening to host UC Irvine in the first meeting of the 2007 campaign for both programs. UCLA (15-15, 5-1 Pac-10) looks to build its momentum, having won seven of its last eight contests. The Bruins won all three games against UC Irvine (23-8-1, 4-2 Big West) in 2006, including a 3-2 victory in the NCAA Tournament's Malibu Regional.

UCLA - Garett Claypool (RHP) vs. UC Irvine - Wes Etheridge (RHP)

UCLA claimed its fifth-consecutive home Pac-10 series over the weekend, taking two of three games from Washington. Senior Tyson Brummett and sophomore Tim Murphy each collected their second victory in as many weekends. Sophomore Brandon Crawford hit at a .556 clip (5-for-9) and tallied a .692 on-base percentage against the Huskies. Sophomore Ryan Babineau belted two home runs in Friday evening's 11-2 rout, becoming the second Bruin this season to swat two round-trippers in a game this season. Washington snapped the Bruins' seven-game win streak on Saturday afternoon.

Prior to Saturday's 9-4 loss to Washington, the Bruins had reeled off seven-consecutive victories, the largest such streak under John Savage at UCLA. The win streak began Sunday, March 25, against Pacific when the Bruins used a 14-run eighth inning to erase an 8-1 deficit and hold on for the 15-8 victory. UCLA won the three-game set against Pacific before traveling north to sweep Stanford at Sunken Diamond for the first time since 1991. Following two wins against Washington, the Bruins had outscored their opponents 74-35 during those seven games.

Freshman right-hander Garett Claypool will make his third career start tonight. The West Hills, Calif., resident has posted a 4.01 ERA through 10 appearances this season. In his two starts (both Tuesday nights), Claypool has logged a 0.00 ERA in 8.1 innings, scattering three hits recording eight strikeouts and one walk. In both those contests, the right-hander has limited opponents to a .107 average.

Freshman Gabe Cohen has recorded a .457 batting average in UCLA's last eight games, collecting nine RBI, nine runs scored, three home runs and three doubles. Cohen has started 20 of 30 games in right field, including the Bruins' last 10 contests. The first-year Bruin boasts a .345 average (third-highest on the club) and five home runs, tied for second-most with sophomore Brandon Crawford.

The Bruins won both regular-season games against UC Irvine last spring before capturing a victory in the team's NCAA Tournament meeting. The Bruins won, 8-4, at UC Irvine on May 16 and took game two, 10-1, at home on May 23. In the NCAA Tournament, UCLA edged UC Irvine, 3-2, at Pepperdine on June 2. Through three games, the Bruins hit at a .343 clip, and the pitching staff totaled a 1.67 ERA. Hector Ambriz tallied a .556 average with one home run, four runs and two RBI at the plate, and limited the Anteater hitters to two unearned runs off four hits through 10.0 innings.

UC Irvine has compiled a 23-8-1 record and a 4-2 Big West Conference mark. The Anteaters have won 11 of their last 14 games. Last weekend, UC Irvine won two of three games at Cal State Fullerton. In their Big West series opener, the Anteaters captured the first two of three games against Long Beach State. UC Irvine won two of three games at Washington the first weekend of March. The Anteaters are led offensively by Matt Morris, who has registered a .400 batting average, four home runs and 27 RBI. Cody Cipriano boasts a .356 average, and Ollie Linton is hitting at a .350 clip.

Junior Alden Carrithers is hitting .444 through the Bruins' last eight games and boasts a .348 average this season (second-highest on the club). The second baseman from Portland, Ore., has tallied a team-leading .439 on-base percentage and is hitting .404 (19-for-47) with runners on-base and .357 (10-for-28) with runners in scoring position. He has posted an .800 average (8-for-10) when hitting with a runner on third base and less than two outs.

Sophomore Brandon Crawford leads UCLA's offense in multiple categories, including batting average (.370), hits (44), at-bats (119), runs scored (31), RBI (31), total bases (73), stolen bases (9), and fielding assists (77). The Pleasanton, Calif., resident earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors the week of Feb. 12-18, after guiding the Bruins to a 4-0 week.

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 19 games against teams currently ranked in Baseball America's 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.

UCLA takes on crosstown rival USC this weekend at Dedeaux Field. Last season, UCLA won two of three games versus USC. The Bruins have posted a lifetime 110-146 record against USC, and have compiled a 25-62 record at Dedeaux Field since 1975. The winner of this weekend's series earns five points in the Lexus Gauntlet Challenge. A Bruin series victory would give UCLA the necessary 57.5-point total to win the 2007 Lexus Gauntlet Challenge (currently UCLA leads, 52.5 to 22.5).

After having started 5-0 in the Pac-10 prior to Saturday's 9-4 loss, the Bruins were off to their best start in conference play since 1977, when UCLA began their Pac-8 schedule with a 5-0 record before ending the season 10-8 in the conference. UCLA's 1967 squad began its AAWU slate with a 6-0 mark.

The Bruins made history on Sunday, March 25 against Pacific. Trailing 8-1 in the eighth, UCLA posted a school-record 14-run inning to defeat the Tigers, 15-8. Sophomore Cody Decker inititated the Bruins' heroics with a grand slam and finished with a career-high five RBI. UCLA had previously scored 13 runs in one inning - versus Winthrop on Feb. 4, 2007 and against Arizona State on Feb. 28, 1997.

One weekend later, UCLA became the first team to sweep Stanford at Sunken Diamond in a three-game regular-season series since Arizona State accomplished the feat in 1997. Stanford had not been swept at home in its previous 71 home series. UCLA had not swept the Cardinal on the road since 1991 and had not swept a series against Stanford since 1997.

Sophomore catcher Ryan Babineau has played in all 30 games, earning 29 starts as the Bruins' catcher. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident has thrown out six of 22 attempted base stealers. Babineau has thrown out 21 of 59 attempted base stealers in his career at UCLA (35.6 percent). A freshman All-America selection by Baseball America in 2006, Babineau has committed one error in 679 career chances (603 putouts, 76 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).

Sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford has excelled under the lights in 2007. Through 15 night games, Crawford has posted a .429 batting average (24-for-56) with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 12 runs scored and 14 RBI. Senior outfielder Will Penniall has also performed well under the lights this season, recording a .364 average (8-for-22) with one double and two runs scored. Freshman right-hander Garett Claypool has thrown 12.1 scoreless innings at night, scattering just four hits and registering 14 strikeouts and two walks.

Senior Will Penniall has sparked the UCLA lineup since opening day and currently boasts a .345 batting average, tied for the third-highest mark on the team. The La Cañada, Calif., native has been a great asset to the team as a starter and coming off the bench. Hitting 2-for-4 as a pinch-hitter, Penniall has totaled 20 hits, 10 runs, seven RBI, 22 total bases and four stolen bases in 19 games.

Sophomore Jermaine Curtis returned to the Bruins' lineup at Stanford (March 30) after missing the first 24 games. Curtis was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the winter quarter. Curtis had an impressive debut for the Bruins, hitting 2-for-5 with a career-high four RBI in UCLA's 8-2 series-opening win against Stanford.

Former UCLA right-handed pitcher Casey Janssen earned a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen to open the 2007 season. In three relief outings, Janssen has thrown 5.2 scoreless innings and allowed one hit while striking out two. In Toronto's 5-3, 10-inning Opening Day victory against Detroit, Janssen relieved Roy Halladay, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out one. The former Bruin earned his first major league save on Sunday, April 8, striking out one without allowing a hit in 2.0 scoreless innings. Through eight relief appearances in the spring, Janssen posted a 1.84 ERA and recorded 18 strikeouts while issuing just one walk.

When Major League Baseball kicked off its season April 2, eight former UCLA ballplayers earned spots on a major league roster. Garrett Atkins (Colorado), Eric Byrnes (Arizona), Jeff Conine (Cincinnati), Troy Glaus (Toronto), Casey Janssen (Toronto), Adam Melhuse (Oakland), Dave Roberts (San Francisco) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia) entered the 2007 season on their teams' respective 25-man opening day roster.

Sophomore Blair Dunlap and freshman Jeff Rapoport are unavailable to play due to shoulder injuries. Senior Nolan Rouse (arm) is also unavailable to play this week.

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).

One year ago, Jermaine Curtis led UCLA with a .390 batting average in Pac-10 play. As a freshman, Curtis started 17 conference games and played in 20. The Fontana, Calif., resident collected 14 runs, three doubles, two triples and 13 RBI. Ryan Babineau posted a .351 average in Pac-10 action, starting all 23 games. Babineau led the Bruins with three home runs in conference play, recording 13 RBI and 11 runs. UCLA's Hector Ambriz, Babineau and Dave Huff earned 2006 All-Pac-10 honors. Curtis, Brandon Crawford and Paul Oseguera captured All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention accolades.

Baseball America selected UCLA as its preseason pick to win the Pac-10 title. B.A. projected UCLA to join Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was selected to its 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 (2007). In its ranking of 'best tools' in the Pac-10, Baseball America named Crawford as the 'best athlete,' 'best defensive shortstop' and infielder with the 'best arm.' Ryan Babineau was listed 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 was named to the 2007 Wallace Watch List by the College Baseball Foundation in November. The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year. 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.

Playing a road schedule that has featured trips to Miami, Mississippi, San Diego State and Stanford, the Bruins have traveled roughly 10,554 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.), spent back-to-back weekends at Ole Miss (1,900 mi.) and San Diego State (135 mi.) and opened Pac-10 play at Stanford (410 mi.). UCLA's road slate includes trips to USC, Arizona State and Washington State.

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 Bruins will play their next 20 games in California (14 home, 6 road). Over that 20-game span, UCLA will host Washington (3), Pepperdine (1), Cal State Northridge (3), Arizona (3) and California (3). In-state road games will include USC (3), UC Riverside (1), UC Irvine (1) and Pepperdine (1). The Bruins will not leave California until they play at Arizona State from May 11-13. UCLA will hit the road for consecutive weekends when playing at Arizona State and Washington State (May 18-20). The Bruins conclude their regular-season at home against Oregon State (May 25-27).

UCLA has not played any extra-inning games this season. In 2006, the Bruins won two of three extra-inning contests. The Bruins defeated Washington, 3-2, in 11 innings and topped Arizona State, 11-10, in 10 innings. Washington State edged UCLA, 4-3 in 10 frames. Under head coach John Savage, the Bruins have compiled a 4-3 record in extra-inning games.

Former Bruin Chase Utley signed a seven-year, $85 million contract extension through 2013 with the Phillies, the ballclub announced on Jan. 21. Utley, who broke into the major leagues in 2003 after Philadelphia drafted him as the second overall selection in the 2000 MLB Draft, finished his three-year career at UCLA with a .342 average, 41 doubles, four triples, 53 home runs and 174 RBI. The former Bruin has had an outstanding spring, having hit at a .368 clip in 19 games (through Monday, March 26). The Phillies' second baseman has smacked six home runs, the most on Philadelphia's squad this spring. Utley ranks fourth on UCLA's career HR list (53) and fifth on the all-time hits list (256).

Five former Bruins were rated as the top prospects in their respective MLB organizations. Dave Huff, last season's ace, has been ranked the No. 10 prospect in Cleveland's organization. Hector Ambriz, a three-year letterwinner at UCLA (2003, 2005-06), has been tabbed the No. 22 prospect in Arizona's farm system. Wes Whisler, a three-year letterwinner at UCLA (2002-04), is rated the No. 29 prospect in the Chicago White Sox organzation. Ben Francisco (2001-02) and Paul Oseguera (2005-06) have each earned honorable mention prospect accolades (Cleveland and San Francisco, respectively).

Former Bruin Torey Lovullo has been making large strides as a minor league coach. After retiring as a professional ballplayer in 1999, Lovullo broke into coaching in 2001 as a roving coordinator with the Cleveland Indians. After having spent portions of three seasons with the Buffalo Bisons (Cleveland's AAA affilaite), Lovullo returned to Buffalo in 2006 after winning back-to-back Manager of the Year Awards with the Carolina League's Kinston Indians and the Eastern League's Akron Aeros in 2004 and 2005, respectively. While at UCLA, Lovullo recorded a .311 average, 45 doubles, six triples and 51 home runs in four seasons.

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