UCLA SS Pat Valaika defends against Arizona, Credit: Jeff Poirier
The UCLA baseball team is a day away from embarking on its 2013 postseason journey, but the Bruins were buzzing with a lot more than pregame excitement this week. The Pac-12 Conference released its selections for various season honors on Wednesday, and six different Bruins had their names called.
Sophomore closer David Berg was tabbed Pitcher of the Year, while junior shortstop Pat Valaika was picked as the Defensive Player of the Year. Both UCLA stars were also selected to the All-Conference team, along with starting pitchers Nick Vander Tuig and Adam Plutko (the third time in his career). Rounding out the honors were CF Brian Carroll and 3B Kevin Kramer, two clutch hitters that received honorable mentions from the panel of conference coaches.
The excerpts from the Berg and Valaika selections are reproduced below for your convenience. To view the complete awards release from the Pac-12, follow this link.
"Berg is the third Bruin to win Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, joining Pete Janicki (1992) and Trevor Bauer (2011). The Covina, Calif., native owns an NCAA-best 0.70 ERA. He is 6-0 in 41 appearances and has tallied 18 saves. He boasts a .190 opposing batting average and has notched 64 strikeouts versus seven walks. The reliable closer pitched a NCAA-high 37.0 consecutive scoreless innings over 24 appearances in the second half of the season and is in contention for a number of national postseason honors, including the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. Berg has been instrumental in UCLA’s success this season as the Bruins are set to host a NCAA regional for the fourth year in a row.Valaika, who hails from Valencia, Calif., is the first Bruin to receive the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honor. The junior shortstop, who has started all 56 games for the Bruins, is fielding at a .978 clip and has committed just five errors in 174 chances. He has registered a team-leading 714 assists, ranking him fourth in the Conference in that category. Valaika was named to the latest Brooks Wallace midseason watch list."
The news was huge for UCLA, as it provides further validation that the program is heading towards greatness under head coach John Savage. The Bruins are the only team to place among the top three in the conference each of the past four seasons. Of course, that stretch included regular season titles in 2010 and 2011, though they had to settle for third this season. But still, the year-in, year-out contention is truly remarkable.
As UCLA gets set to fight for another chance at the College World Series, it’s reassuring to have studs like Berg, Valaika and the rest taking the field in the True Blue and Gold. Let’s hope this isn’t the last weekend of Bruins baseball in 2013!
And before you go, don’t forget to vote for Bergie as a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award. Voting closes tomorrow (May 31), so click here now! It takes literally five seconds.