No. 22 UCLA Baseball to Face No. 12 UC Irvine in Tuesday Night Showdown

April 30, 2007

Los Angeles - The No. 22 UCLA baseball team opens its May schedule with a non-conference tilt at No. 12 UC Irvine on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Freshman right-hander Garett Claypool will make his sixth start of the season for the Bruins. The Bruins have won 16 of their last 20 games and look to improve their record against Big West teams.

UCLA - Garett Claypool (RHP) vs. UC Irvine - Cory Hamilton (RHP)

UCLA right-hander Garett Claypool has logged a 1.83 ERA in his five starts this season and a 3.63 ERA in all 18 appearances. The freshman from West Hills, Calif., picked up the win against Pepperdine on April 17, when he allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings. Claypool has tallied 15 strikeouts while issuing just four walks through 19.2 innings in his five starts. He has also made 13 apperances in relief and has totaled 39.2 innings this season, limiting the opposition to a .227 batting average.

The Bruins won their fourth Pac-10 series of the season, improving to 10-2 in conference play. Senior Tyson Brummett pitched his sixth complete game of the season on Friday, leading UCLA past Arizona, 9-3. Sophomore Tim Murphy picked up his third victory of the spring on Saturday afternoon by limiting the Wildcats to three runs (two earned) off five hits in six innings. In Sunday's 5-3 loss, freshman Gavin Brooks struck out a career-high 11 batters, allowing just one earned run in eight innings. Jermaine Curtis led UCLA at the plate, hitting 6-for-12 with six RBI and four runs.

UCLA has won 16 of its last 20 games, the program's best 20-game stretch since 1997...the Bruins have won nine of their last 11 games, including three-game sweeps of USC and 10-2 in the Pac-10, UCLA has registered its best conference start since the 1924 season...the Bruins have won six of their last seven road games, including sweeps of USC and Stanford...UCLA has won six-consecutive conference road games for the first time since 1969...for the first time in program history, UCLA has swept back-to-back three-game Pac-10 road series...UCLA's 16-4 stretch began when the Bruins scored a school-record 14 runs in the eighth inning to overcome an 8-0 deficit against Pacific (March 25).

Sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford has been named one of 50 candidates for the 2007 Dick Howser Trophy, the National College Baseball Writers Association announced last week. The Dick Howser Trophy, given in memory of the Florida State University All-America shortstop and major league player and manager who died of brain cancer in 1987, is regarded by many as college baseball's most prestigious award. Criteria for consideration for the trophy include performance on the field, leadership, moral character and courage, qualities that were exemplified by Dick Howser's life. Crawford has played in all 42 games this season, and has recorded a .345 average, 14 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 41 RBI and a .422 on-base percentage.

With third baseman Jermaine Curtis in the lineup, the Bruins have posted a 14-4 record. Curtis currently leads the team with a .356 average and has collected 20 RBI, 18 runs and three stolen bases in 18 games. In Friday night's game against Arizona, Curtis belted his first career home run as a Bruin, sending a three-run shot over the center field fence. Over the weekend against Arizona, Curtis hit .500 (6-for-12) with six RBI. Two weekends ago versus Cal State Northridge, the Fontana, Calif., resident hit .545 (6-for-11) with a team-leading five runs scored and two RBI.

Catcher Ryan Babineau has excelled in Pac-10 play, not only in 2007 but also in 2006. The sophomore backstop from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., leads UCLA with a .461 average (18-for-39) in Pac-10 play. Babineau has totaled four home runs, two doubles, 14 runs and 12 RBI in all 12 conference games. On Friday versus Arizona, Babineau finished 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs. As a true freshman last season, he tallied a .351 average (26-for-74) with three home runs and 11 RBI in Pac-10 action.

UCLA has been ranked No. 22 by Baseball America, No. 11 by Collegiate Baseball, and No. 25 by The Bruins climbed three spots in the Baseball America poll, and entered's weekly rankings for the first time since Feb. 26. UC Irvine has been ranked as high as No. 12 nationally in this week's college baseball polls (by Baseball America).

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.

Last season, the Bruins lost two of three games at California. The Golden Bears enter this weekend's series in sixth place with a 7-8 Pac-10 record and a 23-21 overall mark. One year ago, Jermaine Curtis hit .500 (5-for-10) in a three-game series at California. Tim Murphy posted a .375 average and Ryan Babineau hit .333 for the Bruins.

Cody Decker has hit .352 (25-for-71) in UCLA's last 17 games, belting eight home runs and totaling 30 RBI and 13 runs in that span. Decker earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of April 9-15 after hitting .538 at USC. The Santa Monica, Calif., resident belted eight home runs in an 11-game span earlier this season (March 31 through April 21).

The Bruins jumped out one of their best starts in conference play when they won 10 of their first 11 Pac-10 games. UCLA's best-ever conference start (and finish) took place in 1924, when the Bruins finished their conference slate with a 10-0 mark. After starting 5-0 in the Pac-10 over three weeks ago, UCLA was off to its best conference start since 1977, when the Bruins began their Pac-8 schedule with a 5-0 mark before ending the season 10-8 in the conference.

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 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 after the series win against Pacific, 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.

Sophomores Jermaine Curtis and Brandon Crawford have excelled under the lights in 2007. Curtis is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with 13 RBI and seven runs in eight night games. Through 20 night contests, Crawford has posted a .355 batting average (27-for-76) with six doubles and three home runs.

Senior Will Penniall has sparked the UCLA lineup and currently boasts a .322 batting average. In Sunday's 5-3 loss to Arizona, Penniall robbed a home run from Hunter Pace in the third inning as he lept and caught the ball as it sailed over the wall. The La Cañada, Calif., native has been a great asset to the team as a starter and coming off the bench. Hitting 3-for-6 as a pinch-hitter, Penniall has totaled 28 hits, 14 runs, 13 RBI, 35 total bases and five stolen bases in 28 games (21 starts).

Sophomore Blair Dunlap and freshman Jeff Rapoport are unavailable to play due to shoulder injuries. Senior Nolan Rouse (arm) and Tim Stewart (hand) are 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).

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.

First baseman Cody Decker and catcher Ryan Babineau are among the team's offensive leaders on the road. Decker boasts a .833 road slugging percentage and is hitting at a .375 clip with six home runs and 20 RBI away from Jackie Robinson Stadium. Babineau has registered a .344 average on the road and has collected 10 runs, 13 RBI and 31 total bases (second-most on the road).

Playing a road schedule that has featured trips to Miami, Ole Miss, San Diego State, Stanford and USC, the Bruins have traveled roughly 10,696 miles this season, round trips included. UCLA played at the University of Miami (2,744 mi.) in the second weekend of the season, traveled 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.), opened Pac-10 play at Stanford (410 mi.) and drove to play at USC (12 mi.) and UC Riverside (71 mi.). UCLA's remaining road slate includes trips to Arizona State and Washington State and Tuesday night games at UC Irvine and Pepperdine.

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 have played their last 25 games in California and will stay in the Golden State for the next five contests (three at home, two on the road). UCLA will host Cal for a three-game series this weekend. In-state road games include UC Irvine this Tuesday and Pepperdine in one week. The Bruins will not leave California until they play at Arizona State from May 11-13.

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 UCLA right-hander Casey Janssen earned a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen. In 10 relief outings, Janssen has limited opponents to two runs off 12 hits while striking out two (through Sunday, April 29). He has tallied a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched. The former Bruin earned his first major league save on April 8, striking out one without allowing a hit in 2.0 scoreless innings.

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).

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