No. 15 UCLA Baseball to Host UC Riverside

Feb. 12, 2007

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UC Riverside (5-1) at No. 15 UCLA (2-4)
Jackie Robinson Stadium (1,250) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Tuesday, Feb. 13 (6 p.m.)

UCLA plays UC Riverside for the first time this season and looks to get back in the win column after dropping three games at No. 5 Miami last weekend. Last year, the Bruins and Highlanders split the home-and-home series, as each team won at their opponent's ballpark. The Bruins dropped a 6-4 decision at home on Feb. 14, 2006. Three months later, UCLA recorded a 9-4 win in Riverside (May 2, 2006). In the Bruins' 9-4 victory, then-freshman Jason Novak earned the victory and second baseman Sean Smith hit 2-for-4 with four RBI. UCLA owns a 7-5 advantage in the lifetime series between the two schools.

UCLA's Garett Claypool (RHP) vs. UC Riverside's Taylor Bills (RHP)

Freshman right-hander Garett Claypool will make his collegiate debut Tuesday evening at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Claypool, a West Hills, Calif. resident, was a three-year varsity letterwinner at El Camino Real High School. As a senior in 2006, he posted a 1.86 ERA in 49.0 innings and limited opponents to a .170 batting average (54 strikeouts, 21 walks). Claypool recorded a 0.90 ERA in 23.1 innings of relief as a junior. UC Riverside will send right-hander Taylor Bills to the mound in his first start of the season. Bills has allowed two earned runs and two hits in 2.0 innings (two appearances) this season. As a junior in 2006, he compiled a 5-5 record with one save and a 4.11 ERA (15 appearances, 12 starts).

UC Riverside has posted a 5-1 record through the first two weekends, registering a season-opening series sweep of Nevada and a series victory last weekend against Gonzaga. The Highlanders outscored Nevada, 29-20, in a three-game series two weeks ago. UC Riverside continued its winning ways by taking the first two of three games from Gonzaga at home (Feb. 9-10). The Highlanders dropped a 3-2 decision in the season finale on Sunday, marking the team's first loss of the 2007 campaign. Senoir Nick Salotti leads the Highlanders with a .579 batting average (11-for-19) and four doubles in five games. Junior right-hander James Simmons (2-0) has posted a team-best 0.82 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 11.0 innings. UC Riverside is led by third-year head coach Doug Smith, who has compiled a 62-53 (.539) record at the school.

The Bruins lost all three games last weekend at No. 5 Miami in similar fashion. Senior Tyson Brummett allowed just one run on three hits while striking out eight in 7.2 innings in a 1-0 loss Friday evening. UCLA's ninth-inning rally came up short as sophomore Brandon Crawford was stranded at third base after having led off the inning with a stand-up double. On Saturday night, the Bruins trailed 6-3 in the seventh inning and scored five runs in the final three innings to take an 8-6 lead. Crawford and senior Tim Stewart led off the ninth inning with back-to-back home runs, but Miami rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 9-8. Trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning Sunday, freshman Justin Uribe tied the game with a solo home run before Miami answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning and held on for a 7-3 victory.

UCLA has been ranked No. 15 by Baseball America in its Feb. 12 poll. The Bruins began the season ranked No. 13 by Baseball America and rose to No. 11 after winning two of three games against No. 23 Winthrop. UCLA is ranked No. 19 by, and the Bruins were slotted at No. 21 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches preseason poll. The NCBWA ranked UCLA at No. 23 in its preseason poll.

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.

The top four spots in UCLA's lineup are batting a combined .315 (30-for-95) and has been headlined by second baseman Alden Carrithers, shortstop Brandon Crawford, first baseman Tim Stewart and outfielder Mickey Weisser. The top of UCLA's batting order has been aided by the addition of transfer students Alden Carrithers and Mickey Weisser. Carrithers, a junior from UC Santa Barbara, has posted a .348 (8-for-23) batting average with four doubles, eight RBI and five runs. Weisser, a junior from Sierra JC in Rocklin, Calif., is hitting .368 (7-for-19) with one triple and four RBI.

UCLA hosts East Carolina this weekend (Feb. 16-18) with the first pitch of the series opener slated for 6 p.m. The Pirates (Conference-USA) won two of three games last weekend against Liberty in the season-opening series for both teams. Last season, head coach Billy Godwin guided East Carolina to a 33-26 overall record and a sixth-place finish (10-14) in Conference-USA in his first season. Friday evening's game marks the first-ever meeting between both teams.

Junior Alden Carrithers has performed well in clutch situations this season. The transfer from UC Santa Barbara not only boasts a .348 batting average, but has also tallied a .455 (5-for-11) mark with runners on-base. A talented second baseman, Carrithers is hitting .500 (4-for-8) with runners in scoring position and 1.000 (4-for-4) with a runner on third base and less than two outs. Last season, Carrithers earned All-Big West second-team accolades at second base and led the Gauchos in batting average (.342), runs scored (90), walks (45) and on-base percentage (.465).

Junior Mickey Weisser has compiled a .368 batting average through the Bruins' first six games. Weisser, a transfer from Sierra Junior College (located in Rocklin, Calif.), hit .545 in the Bruins' season-opening series against No. 23 Winthrop. In Friday evening's contest at Miami, Weisser hit 1-for-3 with a triple. In 2006, Weisser led the Big-7 Conference with a .420 conference average and a .535 on-base percentage before earning Northern California Community College All-America honors.

Senior Tim Stewart is hitting .350 (7-for-20) as the Bruins starting first baseman. In the season-opening series against No. 23 Winthrop, Stewart hit at a .444 clip (4-for-9) with two runs, one RBI, two walks and three hit-by-pitches. On Saturday evening (Feb. 10) at Miami, sophomore Brandon Crawford and Stewart blasted back-to-back home runs in the top of the ninth to hand UCLA an 8-6 lead. In his second season at UCLA, Stewart has compiled a .307 (44-for-143) batting average as a Bruin.

Not only has senior Tim Stewart been hitting the ball well early in the season, the ball has been exchanging the favor with the former Mater Dei High School slugger. Stewart has been plunked five times in six games. The first baseman was hit once in game two of the Winthrop series and two more times the following afternoon. Stewart reached first base via a hit-by-pitch in Friday night's game at Miami and once more in Sunday's series finale.

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 record. Crawford played in 23 games, starting 10, and recorded a .257 batting average (9-for-35), The sophomore shortstop collected two doubles, six RBI, seven runs scored, three walks and one stolen base.

Aside from his summer endeavors with the U.S. National Team, sophomore shortstop 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 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.

Sophomore catcher Ryan Babineau has shown off his arm through UCLA's first six games. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. resident has thrown out three of five attempted base stealers. Babineau has thrown out 18 of 42 attempted base stealers in his career at UCLA (42.8 percent). A freshman All-America selection by Baseball America in 2006, Babineau has not committed an error in 486 career chances (424 putouts, 62 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).

As major leaguers report for spring training this month, 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.

Freshman pitcher Charles Brewer is sidelined indefinitely with an illness. Freshman Jeff Rapoport is unavailable to play due to a shoulder injury.

UCLA was selected fourth in the Pac-10 Conference's preseason coaches poll, the conference announced on Monday, Jan. 29. 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 the season 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.'

Five former Bruins have been rated as the top prospects within their respective Major League Baseball organizations. Dave Huff, a key starter on UCLA's pitching staff in 2006, has been ranked the No. 10 prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization. Hector Ambriz, a three-year letterwinner at UCLA (2003, 2005-06), has been tabbed the No. 22 prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks 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 Indians and San Francisco Giants, respectively).

Former Bruin Chase Utley signed a seven-year, $85 million contract extension through 2013 with the Phillies, the ballclub announced Sunday, Jan. 21. Utley, who broke into the major leagues in 2003 after Philadelphia drafted the second baseman 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. Utley ranks fourth on UCLA's career home runs list (53) and fifth on the all-time hits list (256). His 108 hits in 2000 are the second-most by a Bruin in one season.

Senior Will Penniall has sparked the UCLA lineup since opening day. The La Canada, Calif., native delivered a clutch pinch-hit double with two outs in the bottom of the eight in the season opener (Feb. 2). Penniall's double led to a dropped fly ball by Winthrop second baseman Phil Carey, off the bat of Ryan Babineau, and carried the Bruins to victory. The outfielder hit 2-for-3 in UCLA's 19-5 rout of Winthrop (Feb. 4), and he finished 3-for-9 with one run and one RBI in the final two games at Miami.

Last season's .977 fielding percentage ranked first in the Pac-10. The 2007 team has tallied a .978 mark, having committed just five errors in 224 total chances. UCLA returns five position players from the 2006 squad. 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).

The 2007 Bruins tied the 'Young-Timers' alumni team, 2-2, in a rain-shortened, six-inning contest Saturday, Jan. 27. Over 85 former UCLA baseball players showed up for the annual Alumni Day at Jackie Robinson Stadium, including former major leaguers Eric Karros and Don Slaught and current MLB players Garrett Atkins (Colorado), Casey Janssen (Toronto) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia).

Sophomore Jermaine Curtis will not be available for Tuesday night's game against UC Riverside. His status beyond Tuesday's contest is pending the resolution of an academic issue.

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 trip to Coral Gables, Fla., UCLA will travel to Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss.), San Diego State (San Diego), Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.), USC (Los Angeles), UC Riverside (Riverside, Calif.), UC Irvine (Irvine, Calif.), Pepperdine (Malibu, Calif.), Arizona State (Tempe, Ariz.) and Washington State (Pullman, Wash.).

Left-handed pitcher Barry Zito, a former pupil of then-pitching coach John Savage, recently inked a seven-year, $126 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Zito, a three-time MLB All-Star and former AL Cy Young winner, pitched for Savage in 1999 at USC. A first-team All-America selection by USA Today Baseball Weekly, Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America that season, Zito earned 2003 AL Cy Young honors after posting a 23-5 record with the Oakland Athletics that season.

HEAD COACH John Savage
John Savage leads the Bruins in his third season at UCLA. A graduate of University of Nevada '91, Savage has coached 13 major-league players in his 14-year career as a college baseball coach. Prior to coaching at UCLA, Savage spent three years as the head coach at UC Irvine, where he brought back a dormant baseball program (school had not fielded a baseball team since 1992).

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