UCLA was the second team in the NCAA Super Regional stage to punch their tickets to Omaha when they defeated Cal State Fullerton in a two game set over the weekend. They will face off against No. 4 national seed LSU upon arriving in Omaha. TSD's Austin Cooper breaks down things to watch for as the Bruins attempt to make a run for a National Championship.
Overall record: 44-17
PAC 12 record: 21-9
UCLA had a very productive 2013 season as they have compiled a record of 44-17 so far. Obviously, they would like to add a few more wins to that in the coming weeks. The Bruins finished third in the PAC 12 standings behind Oregon State and Oregon. However, they have had a much more successful postseason than either of those teams.
In the 2013 postseason, the Bruins have played the fewest amount of games that they have been required to and have won all five of them. In the Regional stage, UCLA defeated San Diego State, San Diego and Cal-Poly on their way to advancing to a Super Regional series against Cal State Fullerton. The Bruins continued their winning ways against the Titans as it only took two games for them to advance to Omaha.
Top starter: Junior RHP Nick Vander Tuiq – 12-4, 2.37 ERA, 81 SO in 114 IP
Team ERA: 2.69
All season long, pitching has been the name of the game for UCLA. The Bruins have a long and storied history of producing dominant starting rotations and 2013 was no different. Led by junior Nick Vander Tuiq (12-4, 2.37 ERA), the Bruins have compiled a team ERA of 2.69 and have also produced one of the most dominant bullpens in college baseball.
In the starting rotation, the Bruins have the ability to put junior right-hander Adam Plutko or sophomore left-hander Grant Watson on the mound, in addition to Vander Tuiq. Plutko is 8-3 with an ERA of 2.35 in 2013, while Watson is 8-3 with an ERA of 3.22. None of the starters for UCLA are power pitchers as they have not collected many strikeouts throughout the season, but good defense allows them to pitch to contact. It is likely that Plutko will get the ball when UCLA begins the College World Series against LSU.
Now for the UCLA bullpen. The Bruins have one of the top closers in college baseball in sophomore right-hander David Berg. On the season, Berg has compiled a record of 7-0 with an ERA of just 0.88. In addition to that, Berg has struck out 73 hitters in 71.1 innings and collecting 21 saves. It seems as though teams struggle to make contact with Berg as he has only allowed 49 hits in 2013.
With a solid closer, the rest of the UCLA bullpen is also phenomenal. Freshman James Kaprielian has been solid out of the pen with an ERA of 1.67 and 50 strikeouts in only 37.2 innings pitched. They also have junior right-hander Zack Weiss to eat up innings out of the pen. Weiss has compiled a 2-1 record to go along with an ERA of 2.33, while only allowing 35 hits in 38.2 innings.
The backbone of this UCLA team is pitching and it will be on full display beginning this weekend.
Offense and base running
Top hitter: Sophomore 3B Kevin Kramer - .279, 3 HR, 40 RBI
Team batting average: .251
As good as the pitching has been for the Bruins, the same cannot be said about their offensive production. The Bruins are hitting a measly .251 as a team and don't have a single hitter in their lineup over the .300 mark. They have also struggled mightily in the run production department as the Bruins have only produced 293 runs in 2013. In terms of power numbers, UCLA has hit 19 homeruns as a team this season.
The Bruins are led at the plate by sophomore Kevin Kramer. In 2013 Kramer has collected an average of .279 with three homeruns and 40 RBI. After Kramer, there is more of the same for the Bruins. Sophomore Eric Filla is currently hitting .278 with one homerun and 25 RBI. First baseman Pat Gallagher has compiled an average of .277 with one homerun and 20 RBI.
From there, things continue to go downhill for the Bruins. However, while these statistics seem a bit below average for the norm in college baseball, a team can certainly win when they have the kind of pitching that UCLA does.
The one offensive department that the Bruins have the capability of producing in is on the base paths. As a team, they have not collected an obscene amount of stolen bases (66), but they have one player in their order that has been very effective.
Junior center fielder Brian Carroll has been the speed demon on the base paths for the Bruins this season. In 37 attempts, Carroll has stolen 30 bases, putting him squarely ahead of anyone else in the batting order for the Bruins. With their lack of offensive production, it will be imperative that the Bruins have the ability to move runners when they do get on base in Omaha.
Not much is expected out of the offense, but it will have to become a priority if the Bruins hope to stick around for more than two games in Omaha.
Top fielder: Junior CF Brian Carroll - .993 fielding %
Team fielding %: .980
Another strong point of this 2013 UCLA Bruins squad has been what they have done in the field behind their phenomenal pitchers. They have compiled a team fielding percentage of .980, which ranks near the top of college baseball. There isn't a single player in the UCLA lineup that has double-digit errors and this is a huge reason why the pitching staff has been so effective so far in 2013. As a team, they have only committed 49 errors in 2013.
This will have to remain the same if the Bruins hope to have any sort of success in Omaha. Good pitching and good defense can make up for a lack of offense very easily, but if the fielders falter, it could spell trouble for the Bruins. Overall, this is a very solid defensive team that has the ability to make the tough play and prevent big innings from occurring. This will be put to the ultimate test beginning this weekend where offense will be a big factor in the success of some of the top programs in the country.
Getting to know UCLA
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