2007 Bruin Baseball Season Preview

Bumped from the diaries. We are hoping Rye and Menelaus will keep us up to date on UCLA baseball throughout the season. I will pitch in when I can and so should all of you. Lot of folks are excited about Bruin baseball. Unlike football this yet another UCLA program led by a competent head coach. GO BRUINS - N

The Bruin baseball revival continues in 2007 as UCLA comes into the season with its highest preseason ranking in 7 years. Ranked #13 in the preseason poll by Baseball America, the premier source for college baseball, the Bruins are not only making a national statement, but are the highest ranked Pac 10 team and one of the favorite to bring home the conference crown. This season's high expectations are far from a peak for the Bruin baseball program too, as this year's squad is extremely young. Only one senior is expected to be in the everyday lineup and the starting staff includes two freshmen and a sophomore. The 2007 Bruins are regarded as one of the best defensive teams in the nation and will contend for a spot in the 2007 College World Series, despite losing David Huff and Hector Ambriz, two starters who were selected in the MLB Draft.

The Bruins will have to deal with the hardest schedule in the nation again this season after having the hardest last season. The Bruins open the season on February 2 with a series versus #23 Winthrop, only to follow it up with a trip to Miami, where the bruins will take on the #2 Hurricanes. The Bruins will play 20 games against seven teams ranked in Baseball Americas' top 25 and 33 games against teams in the top 50. Overall, 50 of the Bruins 56 games this season will be played against teams that are either ranked or received votes in Collegiate Baseball's "Fabulous 40." This difficult schedule will no doubt leave the Bruins ready for postseason play and hopefully, a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.

UCLA's surge is lead by Head Coach John Savage, in his 3rd season since taking over for the retired Gary Adams. Savage is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the nation, having taught Cy Young Barry Zito and has had 21 pitching disciples chosen in the MLB draft in the past 6 years. Savage is not only a pitching coach however, as he has proven through the magnificent jobs he has done as a head coach at both at UCLA and UC Irvine. Savage has twice been a finalist for National Coach of the Year. Savage is not only a good coach, but a stellar recruit, bringing in the #3 rated recruiting class last season and the #13 rated class this season. Savage's accomplishments have not gone unnoticed either, as he was listed in Baseball America's "10 People to Watch In the Future" where the magazine said, "UCLA has always been viewed as a sleeping giant on the West Coast, and it looks like Savage has the giant stirring."

As UCLA heads into 2007, they hope to build off the momentum built in 2006, where the Bruins qualified for the Malibu Regional after a 33-25 season and 2nd place Pac 10 finish. The 2006 squad was extremely young, starting 5 freshmen on a regular basis, sometimes as many as 7. This season, those freshmen are now sophomores and poised to make noise on the national scene. The sophomore class is headed by SS Brandon Crawford and 2B Jermaine Curtis who make up one of the better double play combinations in the country. Crawford reports to the Bruins in 2007 after a stellar freshman season where he batted .318 and started all 58 games and his game is expected to have improved this season after spending the 2006 summer playing with the USA National Team. Curtis is also expected to have a great season after the slick fielding second baseman, who can also play third, lead the Bruins in batting with a .336 batting average in 2006. Catcher Ryan Babineau is no slouch either as he is comes into 2007 after being named to the 2006 Freshman All-American team. The sophomore's greatest asset is behind the plate, where last year he handled 445 chances without an error and threw out 60% of base stealers to lead the conference. DH Cody Decker hopes to improve upon his 2006 too, where he batted .302 and hit 5 homeruns in only 62 at bats. The outfield is also littered by sophomores and is where Blair Dunlap, who was named to the All 2006 Malibu Region team and Tim Murphy, who was one of the 10 best prospects in the Northwoods League can be found.  The sole sophomore SP is Jason Novak, who may end up in the bullpen. Novak was extremely successful out of the `pen in the Northwoods league this summer, posting a 1.88 ERA and 9 saves after being one of the weekday starters for the Bruins last season.

The freshman class will also be under extreme pressure this year, the brunt of which will fall on starting pitchers Charles Brewer and Gavin Brooks. Brewer, a 6'4'' RHP from Chaparral HS in Scottsdale, AZ, is regarded as one of the best freshmen pitchers in the country and deservedly so. The freshman comes to UCLA after leaving high school with Arizona Player of the year award, a 19-0 record and three state titles. Brewer posses a 91-93 MPH fastball and three good off speed pitches, which is the same combination of pitches that Gavin Brooks brings to the table. Brooks, a 6'3'' LHP comes to the Bruins after being named an AFLAC All-American and is expected to join Brewer in the UCLA starting rotation this season. The other freshman pitchers are 6'5'' RHP J.D. Haver and LHP Matt Drummond. Haver, while extremely raw is extremely talented as he has a mid 90's fastball and devastating curve and slider. His location is lacking however, but expect this talent to be polished by Savage. Drummond was selected in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Orioles, but decided to attend UCLA, expressing his desire to learn from Savage. 1B/3B Casey Haerther also joins the Bruins after batting .554 at Chaminade HS in Chatsworth, CA. Haerther is expected to compete for a starting spot and provide major power. The final three freshmen the Bruins bring in this year are all outfielders and will battle each other for the one remaining starting outfield position. Raul Duran, a speedy White Sox draftee, Gabe Cohen, ranked the #76 high school senior last year and Jeff Rapoport, the #25 high school senior are all more than capable and give the outfield plenty of depth.

The roster does not solely consist of underclassmen however. Senior SP Tyson Brummet is expected to anchor the staff this season after a successful season last year and  in the Northwoods league this summer where he had a 1.40 ERA. Last season, Brummet was counted upon often as the #3 starter and proved he could pitch in the big games by pitching 6.2 solid innings in the Malibu Regional and by coming up with his best start of the season against USC, where he turned in a complete game, one run, six hit, five strikeout effort. Junior Brant Rustich will be the Bruins closer this season after taking a medical redshirt last season. He is regarded as one of the best relievers in the Pac 10 and brings a mid 90's fastball to the table. Senior 1B/3B Tim Stewart is expected to be the only upperclassman in the starting lineup as he comes off a 2006 where he batted .301 with six home runs and 25 RBI.

The Bruins come into the 2007 with the highest expectations in years. Not only regarded as one of the conference favorites, some have chosen UCLA as a favorite to make it to Omaha at season's end. Baseball American picked the Bruins to do following the 2006 season and have made it clear they are one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. Whether or not the Bruins get to Omaha will fall in the hands of the Bruins young freshmen, specifically Brewer and Brooks. While extremely talented, both are still freshman and will be expected to be weekend starters right off the bat. The starting pitching is the only question as the Bruins possess superb defense, top notch hitting and one of the nation's better bullpens. While the Bruins made a regional last year, they are expected to host one this year according to those within the program, which means the NCAA also expects UCLA to be one of the better teams on the West Coast and worthy of hosting a regional. The prospect of hosting a regional has lead to improvements at the baseball team's home, Jackie Robinson Stadium (the Jack). Last season, all the benches were replaced by individual seats and the entire stadium was repainted and padded. This season, they are hoping to put seats where the grass berms are now to accommodate the number of fans required to host a regional. The Bruins have put in serious effort the past few years to make themselves national contenders and now it is time for us to show them our appreciation. The Jack only holds 1,500 people at the moment, yet it was only filled for the three USC games last season. Tickets are cheap at $6 for adults, $4 for children and free for Wooden Fund cardholders so lets pack the Jack the season and cheer on our Bruins as they make their way to Omaha!

Schedule: Official Site Link

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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