UCLA: Gary Adams
May, 31, 2012
By Peter Yoon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesSince arriving at the school in 2005, UCLA baseball coach John Savage has led the Bruins to new heights, but a national championship is still missing.
LOS ANGELES -- After nearly a century of playing at the intercollegiate level, UCLA baseball has finally arrived.
UCLA is seeded No. 2 nationally for the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday, and when the Bruins (42-14) face Creighton in the opening round of the Los Angeles Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium, they begin their quest to back up all the recent accolades with the UCLA’s first national championship in baseball.
Should they do so, it would be only the latest in a long line of firsts the program has achieved over the past few seasons. This year, the Bruins won consecutive conference titles for the first time. Last year, pitcher Trevor Bauer became the first UCLA player ever to win the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top player and Gerrit Cole became the first UCLA player ever taken as the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
In 2010, the Bruins earned a national seeding for the NCAA tournament for the first time, were host of an NCAA regional and a Super Regional for the first time, and won a game at the College World Series for the first time.
The No. 2 seeding this year is the highest UCLA has ever been seeded for the NCAA tournament and it provides validation that the recent run of success is no fluke.
“One of our main goals when we got here was to become a national contender year in and year out,” coach John Savage said. “That is very, very difficult to do in baseball and I don’t know if we are there yet. Some people would argue yes, some would argue no.”
But at least there is an argument now.
Since its inception in 1920, the Bruins' baseball program had been an 85-year see-saw session in which the Bruins would contend for conference titles and fifth-place finishes with equal frequency. That all changed when Savage took over as coach in 2005 and built UCLA into a consistent winner that now must be considered among the nation’s top powers.
In the 58 years before Savage, UCLA had been to the College World Series only twice and had qualified for the NCAA playoffs 12 times. In the eight seasons since, Savage has taken UCLA to the NCAA playoffs six times and was two wins away from a national title in 2010.
And in conference play, the Bruins are now among the title contenders year in and year out. They have won the past two titles and have finished among the top three in the conference in seven consecutive seasons -- the longest such streak in school history.