Sweeping USC was just the start of the excitement for UCLA baseball this weekend.
Not only did the team take three games from the rival Trojans, but the Bruins’ closer, sophomore David Berg, set a school record for saves in a season and coach John Savage picked up win No. 400 of his career.
Berg, who has just taken on the closer role this season, is no stranger to setting records – last year, he tied the NCAA mark for appearances in a season.
“We’d never be where we are without him; he’s been our guy all season long,” Savage said of Berg. “We have a lot of trust and faith in his preparation, and it’s just good that he’s on our side because he’s as tough as anyone you’ll see out there.”
Berg’s arm came into play multiple times this series, helping the Bruins clinch the series in two games and closing down the whole series in the third, taking the sweep for UCLA (37-15. 20-7 Pac-12).
The sidearmer was a seventh and eighth inning reliever for the Bruins last season, and came into this season expecting to fill a similar role. But when freshman reliever James Kaprielian, the closer to start the season, experienced injury problems early on, Berg became UCLA’s go-to ninth-inning man.
“I didn’t go into this season expecting to be the closer; I got thrown in when James (Kaprielian) got injured. … I’ve been lucky to have gotten the opportunities I’ve had,” Berg said.
Savage downplayed the importance of his win mark after the sweep. While the coach recognized that it was an accomplishment, he wants to focus on more pressing matters like UCLA’s place in the conference standings, with the team two games back of first with three to play.
“Those are just something you can look back at later and enjoy but we’re trying to win this conference. … I’m certainly excited about it but at the same time there’s a lot more to pay attention to,” Savage said.
UCLA improved to 14-1 in one-run games this season, which is a product of both skill and mentality according to Savage.
Sophomore second baseman Kevin Kramer agreed, saying that while the Bruins know they aren’t going to completely blow out other teams they can rely on the details in their game to get them through.
“We’re not going to blow anyone out of the water. (Our) offense has gotten better, but we don’t put up a ton of runs and our pitchers are great in tight situations. … We’re always comfortable in those situations,” Kramer said.
While taking a sweep was important in a tight Pac-12 race, doing so against the rival Trojans at USC also made things a bit more exciting for the Bruins.
“Everyone tries to say it’s another game but there’s something a little extra on the line, and to beat them at their place on their Senior Day … it means a lot,” Berg said.