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Number 1

Raisin already diaried the big news yesterday. UCLA’s baseball team is starting the 2007-08 season as the number 1 team in the country. Per the official site, this is the Bruins’ highest preseason ranking by any publication in our school’s history.

From the official writeup:

The preseason ranking by Baseball America marks the third time in which UCLA been ranked No. 1. During the 1979 season, UCLA first reached the No. 1 spot (Collegiate Baseball). In 1997, the last season in which the Bruins reached the College World Series, both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball tabbed UCLA as the No. 1 team the week of March 3.

Including UCLA, four Pac-10 teams are represented in Baseball America's 2008 preseason top-25 poll, including Arizona (2), Oregon State (7) and Arizona State (9). Rounding out the top five teams are Vanderbilt, Mississippi and North Carolina. UCLA will play 13 games against teams ranked among the preseason top-25.

Led by fourth-year head coach John Savage, UCLA returns seven starting position players and two starting pitchers from a 2007 squad that reached the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time since 2000.

The Bruins return four of their five All-Pac-10 selections from one year ago, including juniors Brandon Crawford (.335, 7 HR, 55 RBI), Cody Decker (.307, 14 HR, 57 RBI) and Jermaine Curtis (.329, 4 HR, 33 RBI) and sophomore Gabe Cohen (.345, 10 HR, 36 RBI).

In addition, the Bruins' lineup will feature junior Ryan Babineau (.272, 5 HR, 37 RBI), who has played in more career games (117) than any other Pac-10 catcher, and senior second baseman Alden Carrithers, who led the Bruins with a .352 average one year ago.

Sophomore southpaw Gavin Brooks (6-7, 4.47 ERA, 98 K) and junior left-hander Tim Murphy (5-4, 5.68 ERA, 96 K) will spearhead the Bruins' starting rotation this spring. Sophomore Charles Brewer returns to the staff after having pitched in just four games in 2007, due to illness and injury. Junior Jason Novak (3-0, 4.83, 38 K) and sophomore Garett Claypool (3-1, 3.54 ERA, 35 K) return to action on the mound, as UCLA's pitching staff welcomes the addition of six talented arms (five freshmen, one JC transfer).
Here is the reaction from Coach John Savage, known around here as the Ben Howland of college baseball:
"It’s a credit to the players and the assistant coaches that have put us in a position where the expectations for this team are very high," Savage said. "We worked hard in the fall and (this month) to prepare for the season. Right now we are going through the processes to prepare us for a successful season." […]

"It’s just a recognition of the progression of the program," Savage said. "But it’s also where you are at the end of the season as opposed to the start that is where you want to be. Right now we are working on having the work ethic and the preparation and the chemistry and creating an environment of team work and winning.

"It’s also (just) one publication’s opinion. This publication has us at No. 1; the other publications have us anywhere from one to 20. So we just have to work hard and prepare for the season."
We can’t wait for the season to get started either coach.