No. 9 UCLA Baseball to Face UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside
Feb. 23, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The No. 9 UCLA baseball team continues its season with its first two midweek games, playing at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday and hosting UC Riverside on Wednesday. Last weekend, the Bruins won the first two of three games against UC Davis at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Top pitching performances from Rob Rasmussen on Friday and from Gerrit Cole on Saturday helped UCLA secure its first two victories of the young season. The Bruins will face two more Big West teams this week in UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.
SERIES VS. UCSB: UCLA leads, 48-33
CURRENT SERIES STREAK: UCLA, one win
SERIES VS. UC RIVERSIDE: UCLA leads, 19-9
CURRENT SERIES STREAK: UCLA, three wins
Tuesday, February 22 - 2 p.m. - at UCSB's Caesar Uyeseka Stadium
UCLA - Matt Grace, LHP, So. (0-0, 4.50)
UC Santa Barbara - Mike Ford, RHP, Jr. (first appearance in 2009)
Wednesday, February 23 - 6 p.m. - at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium
UC Riverside - Ryan Platt, RHP, Sr. (first appearance in 2009)
UCLA - Gavin Brooks, LHP, Jr. (0-0, 18.00)
UCLA sends left-hander Matt Grace (0-0, 4.50) to the mound on Tuesday at UC Santa Barbara. Grace is slated to make his fourth career start and 19th appearance in the last two seasons. The native of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., did not record a decision in 18 games last spring, posting a 3.55 ERA in 33.0 innings. Grace led all Bruin freshmen pitchers in 2008 in appearances, innings pitched and strikeouts. In one relief appearance last weekend, Grace allowed one run and three hits in two innings, totaling two strikeouts. UC Santa Barbara will counter with junior right-hander Mike Ford, who went 6-4 with a 2.96 ERA one year ago.
The Bruins return home to face UC Riverside on Wednesday. Junior left-hander Gavin Brooks will make his first start of the 2009 season. Brooks currently leads all UCLA pitchers with 32 career starts and 160 strikeouts in 182.2 total innings. Last spring, the Vista, Calif., resident went 6-3 with a 5.07 ERA, compiling 62 strikeouts in 71.0 innings. As a freshman in 2007, Brooks went 6-7 with a 4.47 ERA, setting school single-season freshman records with 98 strikeouts and 110.2 innings. The veteran left-hander made one relief appearance in an 8-7, 11-inning loss to UC Davis on Sunday.
TICKETS AND RADIO INFORMATION
Admission to regular-season games at Jackie Robinson Stadium costs seven dollars for adults and five dollars for children. Wednesday's contest against UC Riverside marks the Bruins' final home game until Tuesday, March 3, when the Bruins host Pepperdine. For those unable to attend, a free audio broadcast of Wednesday's home game will be available free of charge at uclabruins.com. UCLA broadcaster Ralph Irvin will have the call, live from Jackie Robinson Stadium.
CELEBRATING 90 YEARS
The 2009 baseball season marks the 90th year of UCLA baseball. The Bruins have fielded a baseball team every year since 1920, when head coach Fred Cozens led UCLA to a 3-10 overall record. Including that inaugural season, UCLA has registered a record of 2,102 wins, 1,816 losses and 34 ties. In 90 seasons, the baseball program has seen eight head coaches and totaled 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.
RUNNING THE OPTION
UCLA's infield, still in flux, will feature several new faces in 2009 and offers the ballclub several intriguing options. The Bruins have considered moving junior first baseman Casey Haerther to third base (served as DH in 2007, first baseman in 2008). Along with Haerther, junior Alex Weber-Shapiro and senior Cody Decker will compete for playing time at first base. Sophomore Niko Gallego, freshman Tyler Rahmatulla (Mater Dei HS), senior Eddie Murray and freshman Chris Amezquita (Servite HS) are all pushing for playing time around the infield. Gallego started all three games at shortstop last weekend against UC Davis.
The Bruins' seven outfielders have all been in UCLA's program at least one season. Redshirt juniors Blair Dunlap and Dustin Quist are the unit's eldest players, as each outfielder enrolled at UCLA in the fall of 2005. Last weekend, Dunlap made all three starts in center field, a position in which he earned 29 starts in 2008. Junior Justin Uribe has logged 51 starts in the outfield and looks to assume the starting role in left. Junior Gabe Cohen has patrolled right field the past two seasons and has collected 86 outfield starts (all in right). Pushing for time, along with Quist, include sophomores Raul Duran and Brett Krill and redshirt freshman Marc Navarro.
Freshman Chris Amezquita crushed his first collegiate home run in his first plate appearance as a Bruin on Friday, a pinch-hit at-bat with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Amezquita became the first Bruin to record his first collegiate home run in his first game since Tim Murphy accomplished the feat on Feb. 3, 2006, versus Fresno State. However, Murphy's home run came in his second at-bat. The next afternoon, junior Casey Haerther crushed his first home run of the 2009 season, belting a pitch past the netting beyond UCLA's left-center field wall. Haerther has totaled 14 home runs in just over two seasons at UCLA.
The Bruins' 2009 roster features five seniors - Gino Aielli, Cody Decker, Brendan Lafferty, Eddie Murray and Jason Novak. The most veteran of the bunch, Brendan Lafferty enrolled at UCLA in the fall of 2004 and is the lone remaining member of UCLA's 2005 ballclub. Decker, Murray and Novak have been in the baseball program the past three seasons. Aielli enters his second season at UCLA after having played the 2006 and 2007 seasons at Saddleback Junior College (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule by Boyd's World, a nationally-respected ranking service, the 2009 UCLA regular-season schedule is lined with three consecutive non-conference weekend series away from the West. Following trips to the Houston College Classic, Oklahoma and East Carolina, the Bruins play nine weekends against Pac-10 opposition and a three-game non-conference set against Cal State Fullerton. In all, UCLA's travel schedule spans over 16,400 miles this spring, round trips included.
HITTING IT FARTHER
Junior Casey Haerther led the Bruins with 12 homers and 52 RBI one year ago. In three games last weekend versus UC Davis, he batted .385 (5-for-13) with one homer and four RBI. As a sophomore in 2008, Haerther batted .324 before being named an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection. Haerther is one of two Bruins (along with RHP Charles Brewer) to have been named to the 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award Watch List. A talented defensive player at first base, Haerther may play at both first and third base this spring. Last season, he committed just three errors in 495 chances at first base.
THE PRIDE OF POLY
Sophomore left-hander Rob Rasmussen earned his first weekend start last Friday and tossed five scoreless innings in a 13-1 victory against UC Davis. Making his first Opening Night start, the former Pasadena Polytechnic standout logged five strikeouts, scattering two hits and issuing just one walk. Rasmussen missed 10 weeks of the 2008 season with a broken left foot, sustained off a line-drive comebacker in his debut (Feb. 27, vs. UC Santa Barbara). Rasmussen finished his freshman season with a 0-2 record and 5.60 ERA in 17.2 innings.
BRINGIN' THE HEAT
Freshman right-hander Gerrit Cole recorded seven strikeouts in six innings in his collegiate debut last Saturday, limiting UC Davis to an unearned run and one hit in a 5-2 victory. Cole needed just 83 pitches over six inningsand retired nine consecutive hitters from the first through third innings. The hard-throwing right-hander from Santa Ana, Calif., was was selected in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees (28th overall). Cole became the first high school player drafted in the first round to attend college since 2002, when John Mayberry, Jr. enrolled at Stanford (Mayberry was the 28th overall selection by the Seattle Mariners).
Senior Brendan Lafferty earned UCLA's team most valuable pitcher honors last spring, making a team-high 33 appearances (all in relief), the most since Rob Henkel pitched in 34 games in 1997. He finished his junior campaign with a 4-3 mark, 3.74 ERA, three saves and 56 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. The team's most veteran returnee, Lafferty made 15 appearances in 2005, redshirted the 2006 season and pitched in 25 games as a sophomore in 2007. Lafferty moved into a three-way tie for ninth place on UCLA's all-time appearances list last Sunday when he pitched in his 75th career game (tied with Kevin Brophy and Jon Brandt).
The Bruins welcomed two assistant coaches to the program last summer. Rick Vanderhook and Steve Pearse have joined the coaching staff and bring an extensive and impressive baseball background to Jackie Robinson Stadium. Vanderhook spent 21 seasons as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton and enters his 24th season coaching in the college ranks. He coached Cal State Fullerton to two national titles (`95, `04) and 10 College World Series appearances. Pearse begins his 20th season as an assistant coach and has helped lead his teams to the College World Series as an assistant coach (Cal, 1992) and as a player (Fresno State, 1988).
Baseball America has tabbed UCLA as its preseason favorite to win the 2009 Pac-10 title. The national baseball publication predicts the Bruins to finish ahead of Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon State, respectively. Casey Haerther is named by Baseball America as a preseason All-Pac-10 selection. The publication lists freshman right-hander Gerrit Cole as the conference's 'top newcomer' and freshman right-hander Trevor Bauer as the Pac-10's ninth-best newcomer. Baseball America predicts six Pac-10 Conference teams will earn berths to NCAA Regionals (UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon State, California, USC).
UCLA was selected second out of 10 teams in the 2009 Pac-10 preseason coaches' poll. Arizona State, picked to win the conference, and UCLA each received three of 10 first-place votes. Stanford, picked to finish third, gained one first-place vote, and Oregon State, selected fourth, captured two first-place votes. Arizona received the final first-place vote, being selected fifth in the preseason poll. California, USC, Washington State, Washington and Oregon round out the poll's 10 teams.
WEEKEND IN HOUSTON
UCLA travels to Houston, Texas on Thursday to play in one of college baseball's most respected in-season tournaments - the Houston College Classic. The Bruins will face No. 10 Rice on Friday (5 p.m., PT), No. 6 Baylor on Saturday (1:30 p.m. PT) and No. 5 UC Irvine on Sunday (9 a.m., PT). Other teams competing in the Classic this season include No. 1 Texas A&M and Houston. All games in Houston will be played at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. UCLA broadcaster Tim Wilhelm will call the action live from Houston. Audio broadcasts of UCLA's three Houston College Classic games are available online at uclabruins.com, free of charge. Live stats (GameTracker) and postgame recaps can also be accessed via uclabruins.com.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
The Bruins will play in a Major League Baseball stadium this weekend for the first time since 2004, when UCLA competed in the Aztec Invitational at Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres). Previously, the Bruins played in the Minneapolis Metrodome (home of the Minnesota Twins) in each of three seasons (1987, 1991 and 1997). UCLA won each of its three games at the 1997 Hormel Foods Classic, went 2-1 at the 1991 Oscar Mayer Classic and posted a 2-1 record at the 1987 Wheaties Tournament.