UCLA’s Molnar Tosses Summer No-Hitter
The UCLA Bruins are nearing one of the more intriguing falls the program has seen, particularly from a pitching standpoint after losing ace righthander James Kaprielian, lefthander Grant Watson, righthander Cody Poteet, and of course, heralded righthanded closer David Berg.
While replacing those departed stars will be difficult for John Savage and the Bruins, they can take solace in having quite an impressive incoming crop of arms, including righthander Kyle Molnar, who’s getting a head start against collegiate competition this summer while competing for the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League.
Molnar made headlines in the league Monday night by tossing a no-hitter in a 2-0 win over the Kitsap Blue Jackets. Molnar struck out eight batters and walked just three in the complete game, 124-pitch performance, with 72 of those pitches for strikes.
“We’re pretty excited about Kyle’s future,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “He wants to learn and get better. We’re really looking forward to having him in our program over the next several years.”
Molnar, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, now has a 2.94 ERA in 18.1 innings of work, along with 15 strikeouts and 11 walks. While the talented righthander wants to have success this summer, the biggest plus from the summer is getting acclimated to good college competition. The Bruins will have a wide open fall with a variety of roles, especially in the weekend rotation, up for grabs. Molnar, along with heralded lefthanded Justin Hooper, has a chance to make a real impact in his first season under Savage’s tutelage.
Molnar’s story is rather interesting. The physical righty was a Perfect Game All-American last summer, and originally was considered a very tough guy for the Bruins to get on campus. However, that wasn’t the case as the spring progressed and the MLB draft arrived, as Molnar was drafted in the 25th round by the Cardinals.
The Aliso Viejo, Calif., native has displayed good stuff this summer and can throw three pitches for strikes. He will sit anywhere from the upper-80s into the lower-90s with his fastball, touching 93-94 at times during the spring and this summer. Meanwhile, he’ll also attack hitters with a breaking ball and changeup combination.
Nothing is ever a given, especially with the talented UCLA seems to accrue from a pitching standpoint, but Molnar, Hooper and other incoming arms have a chance to make a serious impact in 2016. The Bruins do return some other talented arms, including Tucker Forbes, Grant Dyer and Hunter Virant, among others.
Stay tuned on more about Molnar and the Bruins, but how about some other standouts from the West Coast League?
Five West Coast League Players To Watch
Cadyn Grenier, ss, Oregon State
The Beavers were ecstatic when Grenier made his signability in the draft as such that teams weren’t willing to take him as a high pick. We’re seeing why this summer, as the elite infielder, hitter and Las Vegas native is making some real waves at the West Coast League, hitting .368 with three homers and 24 RBIs, along with 10 stolen bases.
Dan Mayer, of, Pacific
The Tigers have a new coach in Mike Neu, fellow slugger Gio Brusa is having a strong summer at the plate, and Mayer is impressing at the West Coast League. He’s hitting .325 with 12 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 35 RBIs.
Adam Cline, rhp, Columbia
The Lions had a banner 2015 campaign that ended with a regional title game berth, and Cline, who made 15 appearances last season, is having a strong summer. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder, is playing for the Kitsap BlueJackets and has a 1.14 ERA in 39.1 innings, along with 42 strikeouts and just nine walks.
Keston Hiura, of, UC Irvine
Hiura was one of the nation’s elite first-year players for the Anteaters this past spring, and the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder, is now having a strong summer up in the Pacific Northwest, hitting an impressive .333 with 14 doubles, three triples, three homers and 28 RBIs.
West Tunnell, inf, Baylor
Should Steve Rodriguez and the Bears have a strong first season in a new era, guys like Tunnell must rise to the occasion in 2016. Well, the Bears might be in OK shape if Tunnell’s summer is a precursor for things to come. Tunnell is hitting an impressive .365 with 11 doubles, two triples, five homers and 35 RBIs with the Bend Elks.