Talented UCLA squad expected to advance
going 45-14, tying the 1997 squad for most wins, the Bruins swept
through the Los Angeles Regional with a 3-0 record, earning home-field
advantage in the round that could propel them to the World Series in
The Bruins have undergone a resurgence under head
coach John Savage, making the playoffs in six of his eight seasons and
becoming legitimate contenders to win the College World Series, making
their most recent trip in 2010. And Westwood has become a fertile
breeding ground for major league teams, with 58 Bruins being drafted,
including 20 in the first 10 rounds.
This week UCLA had seven
players picked in the first 15 rounds: outfielder Jeff Gelalich (1st
round by Cincinnati), outfielder Beau Amaral (7th round by Cincinnati),
catcher Tyler Heineman (8th round by Houston), pitcher Scott Griggs (8th
round by the Dodgers), infielder Trevor Brown (10th round by San
Francisco), pitcher Eric Jaffe (11th round by the Chicago White Sox) and
outfielder Cody Keefer (15th round by Miami). Gelalich, chosen 57th
overall as a supplemental pick in the first round, is the Bruins’
highest choice since Chase Utley went to Philadelphia with the 15th
overall pick in 2000.
Center fielder Amaral, who prepped at
Huntington Beach High, is considered an excellent major league prospect.
He can hit and run and is a spectacular outfielder who has evolved into
the Bruins’ team leader.
"We knew he was going to be a special
player for us," Savage said. "You could see that right away he had the
talent and of course the genetics with his dad (Rich, a 10-year major
leaguer) having a long career, and he just had the presence about him,
the swagger. We had a lot of confidence in his ability to play at a high
level — especially defensively. We think he is the best center fielder
in the country. He can go get the ball with anybody and throw with
anybody. He's been (an excellent) leadoff-type guy for us.
"He's had an unbelievable career, a career that will go down as one of the greatest in UCLA history. He's our leader out there.”
a junior, goes into the Super Regional batting .320 with four home
runs, five triples, nine doubles, 45 RBI and 61 runs scored, and likely
will be the key to a championship for UCLA. He says he knew his
recruiting class would be special from the moment he stepped onto the
lush Westwood campus.
"Once I got here," Amaral said, "I quickly
realized what this program was like and got to see pretty quickly how
Coach Savage … handles everybody. I knew about his legacy of being a
great coach at different programs, and I knew right away what (the
experience) would be like."
Amaral is the catalyst of a relentless
Bruins offense, which can ping you to death as it did with 17 singles
in a win at the L.A. regional.
"We're not the type of offense that
goes up to the plate looking for a three-run home run," said Amaral,
going for his second CWS appearance. "Our philosophy is just to get the
guy on, try to move him over then knock him in with a base hit. With our
offense, we just try to wear the other team down with a couple of
(runs) in an inning and then rely on our pitching to keep it close.
You'll see other teams break eventually if you keep putting pressure on
them and play good defense. It can turn into a long game (for them).
team is built for nine innings and if we can continue to wear the other
team down, it becomes a (big challenge to hold us down)."
with the Bruins possessing possibly the best defensive outfield in
college baseball, they make the pitching that much more formidable and
give themselves a very good chance of getting to Omaha. They were close
to a title in 2010, led by the outstanding pitching duo of Trevor Bauer
and Gerrit Cole, but lost twice to South Carolina in the finals. Amaral
likes his team's chances this season and the pressure inherent in
chasing a title.
"It's a little different than 2010, when Cole and
Bauer were here and the spotlight was glaring on us," Amaral says. "It
wasn't as intense for us as this (season) started, but as the year went
on we earned the (recognition) with our play. It's good to have the
target on your back, because you've got to have that target on your back
in order to go all the way. That's our plan."
The Bruins will play TCU, also a 40-win squad, with the best-of-three starting Friday night.