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Opening Day: Diamond Notes & Roundup

Suffice to say ryebreadraz got lot of us more than a little fired up about our baseball team for this coming season. If you have not read his masterful 5 part preview, make sure to check it out. During last couple of days the traditional media in LA tried to play a little catch. The LA Times posted their preview today, which followed this preview from the OC Register that ran on Wednesday.  Robert Kuwada on how our program has been maturing under the leadership of John Savage:

The Bruins are No. 17 in another poll, No. 3, No. 19, No. 7, No. 18 in others. In a vote of conference coaches, the Bruins were picked to finish third - in the Pac-10.

But it is an unquestionable sign that the program is maturing nicely in a fourth season under Coach John Savage and a group of juniors who advanced to the a NCAA regional as freshmen, a Super Regional as sophomores and this season could push the Bruins into the College World Series for the first time since 1997.

"There's a lot of experience coming from a Ryan Babineau, a Jermaine Curtis, a Brandon Crawford, a Tim Murphy, a Cody Decker; a lot of games, a lot of at-bats," said Savage, who can become the first coach in UCLA history to take the Bruins into the postseason in three consecutive seasons.

"I don't think you can find a whole lot of teams that have this many juniors that have played as much as they have. It's really a credit to their maturity and their progression as players."
Well those juniors and rest of their team-mates begin their travel to Omaha this weekend. It's opening night tonight this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium and everyone is a little fired up. From the Daily Bruin:
The UCLA baseball team begins its road to Omaha this weekend in a three-game home series against Oklahoma. And the No. 1 Bruins couldn't be more excited.

"We are all excited to get the season under way," sophomore pitcher Gavin Brooks said. "We are sick of scrimmaging each other. We want to get out and face someone in a different uniform and get after it."

That someone in another uniform is Oklahoma, a consistent contender in the Big 12 Conference that finished with a record of 34-24 last season, coming up just short of an NCAA Regional bid. In seven games against the Sooners, the Bruins hold a slight 4-3 advantage. Yet the last time these two teams met, Oklahoma handed UCLA a 7-2 loss in the Kia Baseball Bash in 2005.

"It's great (to play Oklahoma)," junior catcher Ryan Babineau said. "We want to play the best, and we will play the best anywhere. It's going to be a test to see where we stand. Obviously there are high expectations from us and there are high expectations from the media about us.

"We want to play tough opponents. We don't want to play just rollover games."

Tonight, there will be a different face on the mound for the Bruins. Gone will be the red hair and freckled face of Tyson Brummett, replaced by the brown-haired Brooks. Last season, Brummett was the unquestioned ace of the staff, compiling a record of 10-6 while striking out a team-leading 111 batters.
More on Gavin and rest of our starting pitching rotation for this weekend from the official site:
Sophomore left-hander Gavin Brooks will take the mound Friday evening, making his first opening day start at UCLA. The Bruins' No. 3 starter in 2007, Brooks set UCLA's freshman single-season records for most strikeouts (98) and innings pitched (110.2). The Vista, Calif., resident completed his freshman campaign on a very high note, tossing three complete games in his final three appearances (two postseason). Through his final four starts, Brooks registered a 1.34 ERA and a 3-1 record, limiting opponents to a .167 batting average in 33.2 innings of work. In that span, the left-hander totaled 28 strikeouts and just six walks.

Junior left-hander Tim Murphy had a strong sophomore season on the mound, emerging as the Bruins' Saturday starter midway through the spring. After then-freshman Charles Brewer fell ill with mononucleosis prior to the season opener, the Bruins tested four different pitchers in the No. 2 slot before Murphy emerged as the top candidate. Murphy tallied a 5-4 record and a 5.68 ERA in 76.0 innings, recording 96 strikeouts and limiting the opposition to a .278 batting average. In one of the most fierce performances of the season, Murphy struck out a career-high 14 batters in a 5-4 loss at Arizona State (no-decision). The southpaw also collected one save and one complete game victory at the Long Beach Regional in June 2007.

Sophomore right-hander Charles Brewer, the 2007 Arizona Gatorade High School Player of the Year, returns to the starting rotation in 2008 after having missed nearly his entire freshman season. Slated to serve as UCLA's No. 2 pitcher entering the season's first weekend, Brewer was sidelined for over two months with mononucleosis. Having recuperated to full strength by early May, the Paradise Valley, Ariz., resident made six relief appearances, posting a 5.40 ERA and 0-1 record. Brewer struck out a season-high three batters in 1.1 innings of relief against eventual national champion Oregon State (May 25).
Read rest of the notes here. Again note there was no game last night as it got rescheduled as a doubleheader today due to rain. I am assuming ryebreadraz and others will keep us all plugged in throughout the season. I will do my best to keep tabs the program while following every move of our Ben Ball warriors.