On the same day that UCLA’s plane touched down in Omaha for the College World Series, the Bruins got another trophy to put on the mantel. Relief pitcher David Berg was named First Team All-American by Baseball America, adding to the sophomore’s already extensive collection of accolades.
Berg nabbed the only bullpen slot on the First Team, making him the best reliever in the nation—at least according to this ranking system. College baseball does have a slew of different rankings, but Baseball America definitely carries some weight. And given Berg’s 20 saves, insanely-low 0.80 WHIP and nation-leading 0.81 ERA, it seems like an apt decision.
It was Berg’s second All-American selection, and the latest in a line of individual honors for the UCLA baseball team. The Bruins have now claimed hardware from the conference, the NCAA and multiple national media outlets. Here’s a complete list of all the distinctions UCLA has compiled so far in 2013.
- Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year—David Berg
- Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year—Pat Valaika
- All-Pac-12 Team—Berg, Valaika, Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig
- All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention—Brian Carroll, Kevin Kramer
- NCAA LA Regional Most Outstanding Player—Pat Gallagher
- NCAA LA Regional All-Tournament Team—Gallagher, Valaika, Plutko, Eric Filia, Grant Watson
- Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball First Team All-American—Berg
- Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American—James Kaprielian
- Baseball America First Team All-American—Berg
If things go well for the Bruins in Omaha next week, the list could grow even longer. The All-Tournament team for the CWS remains to be named, and Berg is also still in the running for a few major awards, including NCBWA Stopper of the Year and National Pitcher of the Year. But as great as it is to see UCLA stock pile these kind of honors, the trophy that really matters is the one waiting at the end of the road.
As the Bruins get set for another run at an NCAA Championship, the national recognition they’ve received should provide some confidence to lean on. UCLA is a team with a ton of swagger, and a program clearly on the up, but without a national title in hand, there will always be detractors.
In order to complete its move to the elite, UCLA has to win the College World Series and hoist the trophy for the first time in history. When it does happen, it’d be fitting for Berg to record the clinching out and be the center of the dog pile again. Berg has led the Bruins to victory all season—one side-armed strike at a time—and there’s no indication the All-American closer will stop closing any time soon.