UCLA Baseball Signs Twelve New Players For 2006

Nov. 11, 2004

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - UCLA's first-year baseball head coach John Savage has signed a record 12 new players on the first day of the 2006 early signing period (National Letters of Intent) for the 2006 season. Recruiting experts Student Sports Magazine and Baseball America are considering the overall signing group as possibly the best in school history and perhaps the best in the nation for the early signing period.

'We are very excited about the players that will be arriving in the fall of 2005,' Savage said. 'This group of players will build the foundation and be the nucleus of Bruin baseball for years to come. We believe that this class has exceptional ability and the potential to give UCLA the opportunity to compete at the national level.'

The signings provide necessary talent across the diamond. The commitments include three infielders, three outfielders, a catcher and six pitchers (three left-handers). Several players play multiple positions. Perhaps the two biggest names among the 12 signees are national prospects shortstop Brandon Crawford and outfielder Johnny Drennen III. Three members of the class, Drennen (#22), Tim Murphy (#53) and Brian Kirwan (#79) have been listed as top-100 high school recruits by Baseball America and Perfect Game USA, a national recruiting agency. Ten of the players have been nationally ranked in the top 50 by TeamOne Baseball and Rivals.com.

'The future of UCLA baseball with this group of players is very bright,' Savage continued.

The complete 2006 signing class includes Corey Ashner, Ryan Babineau, Tyson Brummett, Crawford, Robert Dickmann, Drennen, Blair Dunlap, Brian Kirwan, Tim Murphy, Eddie Murray, Jason Novak and Andy Suiter.

'This group of players will build the foundation and be the nucleus of Bruin baseball for years to come. We believe that this class has exceptional ability and the potential to give UCLA the opportunity to compete at the national level.'
Head Coach John Savage

Corey Ashner, a middle infielder out of Blue Valley North High School in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, was the number six ranked prospect in his state. A member of the All-Kansas team, the All-Kansas pre-season team, the All-Eastern Kansas League first team and an Eastern Kansas League Scholar Athlete, Ashner's quality bat and arm will provide the Bruins with valuable depth up the middle. The infielder batted .486 and posted an impressive .984 fielding percentage during the 2004 high school season and was a member of the Kansas City White Sox, the 2004 USSSA World Series Champions. During that series, Ashner was named MVP after hitting .625 and was named to the All-Tournament Team for the third consecutive year.

'Ashner is very good defensive infielder who has a chance to be an offensive player,' Savage said. 'Corey will add depth to our middle infield,' Savage said.

Tyson Brummett, a right-handed pitcher out of Central Arizona Community College, will enter UCLA as a junior in the fall of 2006. Brummett has been drafted twice by the San Francisco Giants.

'We're looking for Tyson to be a frontline starting pitcher in our program,' Savage said. 'He's going to bring experience and we look for him to step in immediately because of his ability to throw three pitches for strikes.'

Regarded as perhaps the best catcher in the West, Ryan Babineau comes to UCLA from Etiwanda High School in Alta Loma, California. During the summer of 2004 Babineau was a standout at the annual Area Code Games and was ultimately named to the Area Code all-star team after a summer of displaying his strong arm and defensive skills. Babineau is a four-year starter at Etiwanda HS and in 2004 earned Team MVP honors along with being named All-Baseline League, an All-Inland Valley, All-San Bernadino County and a Los Angeles Times all-region selection. TeamOne and Rivals.com rated Babineau the ninth best catcher in the nation.

'Ryan is very advanced for a high school catcher in that he can really throw and has the ability to drive the ball,' Savage said. 'He will bring the total package in as a freshman.'

Brandon Crawford, one of the most highly sought after recruits in the nation, is a left-handed hitting middle infielder and a three-year varsity letterwinner from Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California. As a sophomore in 2003, Crawford earned All-East Bay Athletic League honorable mention accolades while establishing a new school record for stolen bases. In 2004 as a junior, he was a first team all-league selection after leading the league in hits, doubles, stolen bases and runs scored. He was also tabbed as a first team All-North Coast Section infielder after hitting .452 (.524 in league) with three home runs, 36 RBI and 17 stolen bases. His performance at this summer's Area Code Games earned him the distinction as one of the top ten infielders in the nation. Crawford has also displayed exceptional abilities on the football field. As his team's starting quarterback, he led the school to a 10-2 record in 2003 and was named first team all-league and second team All-North Coast Section. During the summer of 2004, while balancing his schedule with the Area Code Games, Crawford also participated in the Nike Football Camp at Stanford University and later took part in the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Showcase. So far this season, he has led his school to an impressive 8-1 record and has already thrown for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. On the diamond, his tremendous hitting abilities have reminded the UCLA coaching staff of former Bruin All-American and current major leaguer Chase Utley. He was rated as the 11th best infielder in the nation by TeamOne and Rivals.com

'Brandon is a very high profile middle infielder, we think he is one of the best in the country,' Savage said. 'He's a left-handed hitting shortstop and we're looking for him to be a great player here at UCLA. We think Brandon has a chance to be a very special offensive player here in Westwood.'

Robert Dickmann is a left-handed pitcher from Notre Dame High School in nearby Woodland Hills, California. On the mound he has been regarded as one of the best in the state with his solid fastball and excellent curveball, which at times has dominated high school hitters. TeamOne and Rivals.com have tabbed him as the 37th best left-handed pitcher in the country.

'Robert is an exceptional athlete who has chance to be a two-way guy at UCLA,' Savage said. 'As a left-handed pitcher he's 86 to 89 [miles per hour] with his fastball and has plus command.'

Rated as one of the top at his position in the nation and a likely high major league draft pick, John Drennen is a left-handed hitting outfielder. While at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California, he was twice named an Area Code all-star and was selected last summer for the National High School all-star game. He has been named an AFLAC All-American, All-CIF and all-state selection and was rated by Perfect Game USA and Baseball America as the number 22 prospect in the country. Meanwhile, TeamOne and Rivals.com noted Drennen as the seventh best outfield prospect in the nation. Also while at Rancho Bernardo HS, Drennen helped lead his team to the Pioneer League championship. He also was a member of the AABC team that went on to win USA Baseball's Tournament of the Stars last summer.

'We feel Drennen is one of the top players in the country,' Savage said. 'He's a left-handed hitting outfielder with five tools. We look for John to hit in the middle of our lineup during his entire career here at UCLA. In our opinion John is one of the top five hitters in the country.'

Blair Dunlap, also an All-CIF selection, is a right-handed hitting outfielder from Santa Margarita High School. The multi-faceted Dunlap was one of the fastest players at the Area Code workouts and has also shown strength at the plate and in the field. He was ranked by TeamOne and Rivals.com as the 36th best infield prospect in the nation.

'Blair Dunlap is a great athlete and can do a lot of different things,' Savage said. 'He's a very versatile guy, he can really run and he's also very competitive at the plate. We're looking for him to be a very exciting player at UCLA.'

Brian Kirwan, a right-handed pitcher from Sante Fe Christian High School, was one of the hardest throwing hurlers at the Area Code Games, where he was selected as one of the top 25 players. TeamOne and Rivals.com have listed him as the 17th best right-handed high school pitcher in the nation. His fastball, which has been clocked upwards of 91 miles per hour, has earned him the distinction of the 79th best prospect by Perfect Game and Baseball America. Kirwan was named the Athlete of the Week by the San Diego Union Tribune and the North County Times during 2003 while leading all of San Diego County in strikeouts. In 2004 he was again named Athlete of the Week, but this time for his accomplishments in football. He was honored as his team's MVP in both sports in 2002 and 2003. Despite receiving accolades in both sports while in high school, Kirwan will only play baseball at UCLA; meanwhile his brother is a quarterback at Oregon State.

'We think Brian is one of the best right-handers in the country,' Savage said. 'He's a very good athlete and he's another guy that has a chance to be a weekend guy. He's 88-92 [miles per hour] with good command and we look for him to be a frontline starter.'

Perhaps the best two-way player in the region, Tim Murphy is a left-handed pitcher/outfielder with tremendous power at the plate and 90 mile per hour fastball. Another All-CIF pick, Murphy also is a likely future major league draft pick and was rated as the 53rd best high school prospect in the country by Baseball America and Perfect Game USA. TeamOne and Rivals.com ranked Murphy as the second best left-handed pitching prospect in the entire country.

'We think Tim Murphy is the best two-way guy in the country,' Savage said. 'He has a chance to hit in the middle of our lineup as well as be a weekend starter for us.'

Eddie Murray, a right-handed hitting middle infielder from Gahr High School, is another All-CIF selection. As a junior, Murray hit .579 with six home runs and 25 RBI while only striking out three times in 76 at bats. He was named all-league and all-area in 2002, '03 and '04 and was an All-CIF pick and Los Angeles Times All-Region selection in 2004. Murray was also named to the Long Beach Press-Telegram's Dream Team in 2004 as well as carrying team captain responsibilities in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The strong defensive shortstop, who can also play second base, has no relation the former major league Hall-of-Famer with the same name.

'We think Eddie is the sleeper of the entire class,' Savage said. 'He's a guy that can play second, shortstop and third and he's a very tough player who hit over .570 last year. He's one of the most versatile players in this class and could be compared to former Bruin and ex-major leaguer Mike Gallego.'

Jason Novak, another local player from Agoura High School in nearby Agoura Hills, is a right-handed, all-league pitcher. Novak was a gold medal winner four years in a row from 2001 to 2004 at the National JCC Maccabi Games and was honored as the Most Outstanding Athlete for baseball in 2002. His high school coach Mike Magnante is a former UCLA baseball standout and recent major leaguer.

'He's a guy with a very good fastball and a quick arm,' Savage said of Novak. 'Last year he struck out 71 guys while walking just 11. He has very good command and a sharp, hard breaking ball.'

Finally, Andy Suiter, a left-handed pitcher out of Menlo High School is another four-year varsity letterwinner. In 2003, he went 12-0 and struck out a school record 146 batters in 88 innings while leading his team to the Central Coast Section Division III championship. He also established a school record for strikeouts in a game with 18 and tied the record for wins a season. As a junior in 2004, Suitor was named all-state, All-Central Coast, all-county and was selected as the Peninsula Athletic League Player of the Year by the San Jose Mercury News. He has been noted as the 14th best left-handed pitcher in the country by Perfect Game USA and TeamOne Baseball. In addition to his baseball accolades, Suiter is also a water polo standout and has been honored by the Mercury News and the Central Coast Section. At UCLA, however, the four-year honor student, will focus solely on baseball.

'Suiter is a guy that can really pitch - he throws three pitches for strikes,' Savage said. 'He has a plus fastball along with a great changeup. He's a great competitor and is another guy that will add tremendous depth to our left-handed pitching.'

Along with the announcement of UCLA's 12 National Letters of Intent, Savage also announced that former North Carolina State third baseman Eric Taylor, Jr. has transferred to UCLA and has been enrolled in classes since September. Taylor will be eligible to play for the Bruins in 2005 and is expected to be their starting third baseman. For the Wolfpack in 2004, the Laguna Niguel native, batted .274 with five home runs and 16 RBI while only committing four errors at the hot corner.

'We're looking for Eric to step in and be a guy who has a chance to help us right away,' Savage said. 'Eric brings plenty of experience from the ACC and last year's NCAA regionals. We expect him to come right in and hit in the middle of our lineup.'