Fall Report: UCLAFall Report
LOS ANGELES — Everything is right on schedule for UCLA.
The Bruins knew their freshmen would have to learn on the job last year, when four key freshmen started every day and three others saw meaningful playing time in the lineup. Those young players had their ups and downs, but when the dust settled they were 19-11 in the Pac-12, good enough for third place. That got them into a regional — which was head coach John Savage’s primary objective for them.
“We did what we needed to do last year. We finished third, we played well in league, we won 19 games,” Savage said. “We didn’t play very well out of league, and that’s why it was so nip and tuck (to get into a regional), but if you look at the league it was really a no brainer that we were in, but this team needed to get to the playoffs last year and it did. Now I’m kind of looking at that 2012 and then that ’13 transition. We’re looking to go on a run in terms of talent.”
UCLA followed up a 35-win 2011 campaign that included a conference title with 48 wins and a trip to Omaha in 2012. A year later, they won the first national title in program history. Savage thinks his current roster has clear Omaha potential from a talent perspective, and now that roster is also loaded with experienced sophomores, so it’s natural to expect the Bruins to progress to the next stage.
Certainly, UCLA’s physicality stands out in the West. This position player group has big, strong athletes all over the diamond — guys who will be high-level prospects when they are draft-eligible. The highest ceiling belongs to sophomore Michael Toglia, who hit .261 with eight homers as a freshman, tops of any returning Bruin. A switch-hitter with big power from both sides and a more advanced hit tool from the left side, Toglia has drawn comparisons to Brandon Belt for his 6-foot-5, 209-pound frame and offensive upside. He’s also a good athlete who handled himself ably in the outfield last year, but he’s made a smooth transition to first base this fall, which gives the Bruins additional lineup flexibility.
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