UCLA Baseball: What Just Happened?


UCLA Baseball spent this last weekend at home instead of competing in the NCAA Tournament’s Regional Round. For a preseason top-15 team, that’s quite the disappointment. What happened?

The Bruins’ final record of 25-31 was the team’s worst since 2005, good for 10th of 11 in the conference (Colorado does not field a baseball team).

After hanging around .500 through the non-conference part of the schedule, UCLA won three straight in the Dodger Stadium Classic and looked poised to make a step forward during Pac-12 play. But the conference was deeper this season than last, and injuries started to pile up, and the Bruins stumbled their way to the final series.

Related Story: UCLA Sweeps Dodger Stadium Classic

The main culprit was the offense, which posted a 9th-in-conference ranked .250 batting average and hit just 14 home runs hit all season, fewest of any power conference team. The season ended appropriately as the Bruins held scoreless in all three games of a sweep at Oregon State.

The starting pitching took an expected step back this year, but the bottom plain fell out of the bullpen, usually one of the strengths of a John Savage coached team. Replacing departed all-world closer David Berg was never going to be easy, but it proved downright impossible – at least for 2016.

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Ultimately, 2016 ended up being the rebuilding year I though it might be after early losses caused me to reassess the team’s potential. And that’s okay. Young players got some great experience. Sophomore Griffin Canning and Freshman Kyle Molnar are poised to become a great 1-2 punch in the rotation next year. And the team overall doesn’t lose too much in the way of player turnover.

In 2015, UCLA went 42-14 in the regular season and earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. That came after a 25-30-1 rebuilding season in 2014. Savage has shown he knows how to capitalize on a down year. I’m excited for what the 2017 team can accomplish.

Next: UCLA Basketball Will Have to Change for Lonzo Ball

As always, the Daily Bruin has had great coverage of UCLA Baseball. I’m indebted to Matt Cummings for his year-end review.