Wednesday, July 17

Baseball’s stats are looking good

UCLA is undefeated with six consecutive dominant wins; 14,588 fans attended game against USC

Bruins and Trojans gather on the field before Sunday's clash at Dodger Stadium, an event that drew a college baseball season-high 14,588 fans. The teams hope to continue the event next season and beyond.

Bruins and Trojans gather on the field before Sunday's clash at Dodger Stadium, an event that drew a college baseball season-high 14,588 fans. The teams hope to continue the event next season and beyond. Kimberly Lajcik

As far as numbers go, the UCLA baseball team is having itself some kind of season.

At this point, any sabermetrics junky would drool at the sight of a Bruins stat sheet.

For starters, the Bruins are undefeated through their first six games ““ something that had never occurred in coach John Savage’s previous six campaigns. UCLA jumped out to a 7-0 record in 1997, which is also the year it last reached the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

UCLA’s latest three wins were as dominant as its first three. After defeating Southern, Bethune Cookman and Cal State Northridge by a combined 40-10 margin, the Bruins piled on another three victories by outscoring Long Beach State, Vanderbilt and USC 25-4 last week.

UCLA batters are hitting a mind-numbing .379 while the opposition touts a .188 average. The Bruins ““ a team that was not supposed to hit for power ““ have hit 11 home runs, while opposing teams have managed just two off of UCLA pitchers.

The bullpen has also gotten into the swing of things, at least numerically. Bruin relievers have not surrendered an earned run in 19 and two-thirds innings.

The list of impressive statistics goes on and on, but as far as numbers go, one in particular caught Savage’s attention following UCLA’s 6-1 victory over USC Sunday in the inaugural Dodgertown Classic.

That number was 14,588 ““ as in how many fans walked through the Dodger Stadium gates to catch an afternoon ball game between the crosstown rivals.

“Having almost 15,000 for a college baseball game in late February is a credit to the college baseball community,” Savage said.

The coach added that he did not expect the event to be as successful as it was.

Frankly, neither did Dodger Stadium personnel, who seemed overwhelmed and unprepared for what Sunday brought.

With just a handful of snack shops open, food-seeking fans stood in long lines. At one point, vendors ran out of hot dogs and turned fans away until a new batch arrived.

The stadium’s field level, which wraps around the entire warning track until it reaches the bull pens, was filled to capacity in the early going. As a result, both outfield bleacher sections were opened to compensate for the large crowd.

It was hard to tell which school had a bigger showing. A majority of the blue-clad fans sat behind the Bruins’ dugout on the third-base side. Still, junior shortstop Niko Gallego sounded shocked when notified about the attendance number.

“How many did we have?” he asked in disbelief.

When told again, Gallego said, “Wow, it was unreal to see that kind of Los Angeles support.”

It was something new, that’s for sure. Bruin players don’t see those types of numbers at their home field. Just two days earlier, only 709 fans showed up to Jackie Robinson Stadium for a premier pitching matchup between UCLA’s Gerrit Cole and Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray. The Bruins won 9-2, but with a high probability of showers, many of the fans had left by the time sophomore closer Dan Klein shut the door by striking out the side in the ninth.

Last season, the Bruins played in a similar tournament at Minute Maid Park ““ home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros. Senior Justin Uribe said the atmosphere was far different at Dodger Stadium.

For the most part, fans remained involved. A band from each school played behind its team’s dugout. UCLA fans eight-clapped their way through the school’s tunes, while the USC contingent booed loudly when UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel appeared on the video board to list the stadium’s code of conduct rules.

Savage ran out to dispute two close calls early in the game but by the sound of the crowd’s reaction, it would have been reasonable to think that Dodgers manager Joe Torre was the one arguing with the umpires. In another electrifying moment, freshman Cody Keefer threw out a USC runner at the plate to bring the crowd to its feet.

“It was really unbelievable,” Uribe added. “I hope they continue to do this in the years to come.”

Savage and USC coach Chad Kreuter sure intend on hosting the same event next spring, though Savage said there are plans to have it be a two-day tournament. The Friday games would still be played at the home team’s respective venues.

Ultimately, the hope is that UCLA showed enough at Dodger Stadium ““ and on Fox Sports Net ““ to ignite interest in a program that could use more fans at its home games.

“Hopefully we can get some of those fans out to see us at Jackie,” Gallego said. “It was good to be exposed to this kind of crowd.”

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