Jun 25, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; UCLA Bruins third baseman Kevin Kramer (7) is congratulated by pitcher David Berg (26) for scoring during the third inning in game 2 of the College World Series finals against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports
FINAL 2014 RECORD:
Pac-12 Conference: 12-18, 9th place
Home Record (Jackie Robinson Stadium): 11-20
Lost 11 of last 13 games, including ten in a row in one late stretch.
From a penthouse in the richest hotel in Beverly Hills to the basement in the worst motel on Skid Row.
That’s the best description of UCLA’s baseball program as the 2013 national champions – as expected considering their 2014 record – didn’t even hear their name called in the recent NCAA tournament selection show.
Bruin Nation was undoubtedly surprised at what was clearly the most disappointing team in UCLA’s athletic program this school year.
How they could feel any other way when you win your first College World Series in Omaha, NE just a few months ago, and the bulk of the players who were responsible for that glory were returning to defend that title?
True, Adam Plutko and Nick VanderTuig, the two starting pitchers who were lights out during last year’s postseason and were the main factors for the Bruins’ 2013 dominance, had moved on to minor league baseball, but everyone felt that the staff was more than good enough to pick up the slack.
They weren’t, at least for this season…
James Kaprelian, UCLA’s ace, was the only starter with an earned run average below 3.00 and the only pitcher with over 100 strikeouts.
Unfortunately, his 7-6 record wasn’t exactly Cy Young Award material, or even Golden Spikes Award (the Heisman Trophy of college baseball) material for that matter.
The rest of the starters were even more disappointing as Grant Watson sported a 3.80 ERA with a bad-for-college-baseball 4-9 mark, while Grant Dyer and Cody Poteet had ERAs over 4.00.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not the stats of a championship-caliber group of pitchers.
Before anyone thinks that this is merely a Bash-UCLA-Baseball piece, it’s only fair to say that injuries were also a huge reason for the Bruins’ demise as (arguably) their two best players, Eric Filia and Kevin Kramer, missed the entire campaign due to their bodies betraying them before the campaign even started.
David Berg, who as the closer was unhittable in 2013, likewise had the injury bug bite him in the form of arm troubles, which made his 11 saves and 1.50 ERA quite impressive.
As for the hitting, 2014 went about as expected, especially with Kramer and Filia gone: a Punch-and-Judy-like .242 team batting average.
Not to mention the fact that several players around the country had more homers than the entire Bruin team: eight.
Shane Zeile, with his .324 average, was the only threat in the UCLA lineup along with Ty Moore, who hit .294, and Trent Chatterton, who batted .327 in conference play.
As for everyone else, well, let me give this illustration:
Pat Gallagher played first base for UCLA this season, as was pretty much a regular during his four years in Westwood.
His batting average for the 2014 season? .173!
Not to pick on him, but with the lack of power and small-ball philosophy that the Bruins have, combined with the disappointment that the pitchers showed and their anemic home mark…
Adding to that the fact that their season began to crumble with a three-game sweep at the hands of crosstown rival USC – at home – with the Trojans scoring seven runs in the ninth inning of the third game (Personally, I felt that the season ended for the Bruins then),
Jun 25, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach John Savage (22) looks on from the dugout before game 2 of the College World Series finals against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It was inevitable that UCLA won’t get to defend their NCAA championship this year.
Coach John Savage is counting on this season being an aberration as only three seniors, including Gallagher, are gone.
It will all depend, however, on whether Zeile, Moore, and Chatterton get taken in the upcoming MLB Draft, and how many of their recruits get drafted and sign with a pro team.
I will certainly give Savage and the team a pass, precisely because of their title run of last season, and every other Bruin should, too.
If 2015 is anything like 2014, I, for one, will not be so generous.