GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS FOR UCLA ATHLETICS

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Bruin Nation is desperately hoping for a better season from the guys who wear these helmets this fall.

 

Actually, it’s two bits of good news to go with one fairly significant bit of bad news.

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS:

Part 1. UCLA’s basketball program got a major boost yesterday when two of the five players that declared for the NBA Draft, Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welch, announced that they were withdrawing from the draft and remaining Bruins.

Talk about coming to their senses and seeing reason!

After seeing Lonzo Ball, T. J. Leaf, and Ike Anigbogu leave (Ball and Leaf’s departures were, of course, expected; Ball is projected to not only be the #2 overall pick , but also to stay in L.A. and wear the purple and gold of the Lakers, who could sure use him. Anibogu? Look for him to be playing in the D-League or overseas this November), only the fact that UCLA has the second-ranked recruiting class coming kept me from saying that the team will revert to its 15-17 form from 2015-16.

Now with Welch, a center who had a very good year and is continuing to get better, and Holiday, who was one of the Pac-12 Conference’s best sixth men, back in Westwood, UCLA’s chances at postseason glory in 2018 has just improved leaps and bounds.

I don’t think they’ll duplicate their 32-win season from this past year, but I do expect them to be very good – even though USC, with all of their starters returning from a team that set a school record for most wins, will post a major challenge and give SoCal something that it hasn’t seen in a LONG time:

A real Crosstown Rivalry battle on the hard court.

 

The University of Southern California Trojans take on the UCLA Bruins in the first round of the 2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV on March 9, 2017. (Samuel Marshall/Eric Evans Photography) A fond farewell goes to the two Bruins on the right and the one on the far left, while a fond welcome back goes to the Bruin second from the left…

 

And speaking of those rivals from south of downtown L.A…

Part 2. Thanks to the baseball team’s sweep of the Trojans – at ‘SC, no less – UCLA captured the Crosstown Cup for the third time in five years, the final score being 105-85, with each team getting five or ten points for beating the other.

Much kudos goes to the teams (besides baseball) that got Bruin Nation the Cup by beating the Trojans:

  • Women’s Soccer
  • Women’s Volleyball (swept two from USC)
  • Women’s Basketball (see Women’s Volleyball)
  • Men’s Basketball (took two of three from ‘SC, including knocking them out of the Pac-12 Tournament)
  • Men’s Volleyball (again, see Women’s Volleyball)
  • Women’s Cross Country (finished ahead of ‘SC in the Pac-12 Championships)
  • Men’s and Women’s Tennis (each split two games)
  • Women’s Water Polo (also split two games)
  • Men’s Track and Field (beat the Trojans in the annual meet)

When you have a college that resides in the same city as you, it’s always nice to beat them in anything.

 

UCLA’s Joe Bruin mascot and Spirit Squad at Pauley Pavilion…

 

 

ALL RIGHT, HERE’S THE BAD NEWS:

After two decades, someone has finally matched UCLA’s total of 113 NCAA championships.

And in the proverbial rubbing of salt on the wounds, it came at the expense of a Bruin team as Stanford beat a favored UCLA women’s water polo squad in the national title game.

Stanford, a school that is academically every bit as good as the Ivy League institutions, complete with the nation’s lowest admissions rate (6%), has been creeping up on UCLA’s championship total for a while; Bruin Nation dodged a bullet when the Cardinal’s women’s golf team fell short in their NCAA tournament.

The way things are trending, by this time next year the Bruins will no longer have the distinction of being able to say that they have more NCAA championships than any other school.

My Opinion of That…

As far as disappointment on a scale of one to ten, I give this a 15.

To be brutally honest, I don’t believe that the UCLA athletic department as a whole is putting as much an emphasis on winning as it should.

Not even close, as in the tradition of “What have you done for me lately?”, in the past five years Stanford has more than doubled the number of championship plaques that the Bruins have taken back to Morgan Center – 12 to UCLA’s five.

UCLA teams that once dominated the college scene, like track and field, are now irrelevant.

Great athletes who have gone on to success still abound, and it’s not like the Bruins have become the Bad News Bears or Charlie Brown’s team, but…

At the end of the day, in the real world – and it pains me very much to say this – the only thing that people truly care about is whether or not you won.

Just like when one goes for a job, it doesn’t matter if you did your best; if you’re not the one hired, you’re not able to make a living.

In other words, no one cares who comes in second or third.

Put it another way – who remembers any of the silver or bronze medalists at the most recent Olympic games?

That’s what I thought.

As far as how this pertains to my alma mater, all I have to say is this…

Something has got to change, or else I fear that one day – maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday (to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in the classic movie “Casablanca”) – UCLA Bruin Athletics will be considered a “has-been”, a program that was once the best in the country, but to put it politely has seen is better days and is now just another one of the 300 in Division I.

I pray that doesn’t happen – at least within my lifetime.

 

You didn’t think I would do a UCLA article without including something from the gymnastics team, didn’t you? Check out Kyla Ross doing her thing…

 

Let me sum this up in a blunt fashion…

I WANT TO WIN.

I WANT CHAMPIONSHIPS FROM MY COLLEGIATE ALMA MATER, AND I DARE ANY OF MY FELLOW UCLA ALUMS TO DISAGREE WITH ME.

I WANT MY BRUIN TEAMS TO USE ANY MEANS NECESSARY (within the NCAA rules; I don’t want any UCLA teams going on probation or sanctions or any USC/SMU-type scandals) TO WIN TITLES.

ANYTHING SHORT OF THAT NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED A DISAPPOINTMENT ON SOME LEVEL IF NOT AN OUTRIGHT FAILURE.

THIS IS THE MENTALITY THAT EVERYONE IN BRUIN NATION NEEDS TO ADAPT.

OR ELSE THIS PROCESS OF BEING LEFT BEHIND WILL BE COMPLETE.

Which will be truly devastating to this alum.

Just being honest.

Have a great summer, fellow Bruins…

 

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero with the head of Under Armour, whose gear the Bruin teams will be wearing starting July 1st.

AFTER SEVEN WEEKS: A Brief Update of the Dodgers and Angels

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday, March 27, 2014 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2014 Dodger Yasiel Puig posing with Superman, I mean the Angels’ Mike Trout, with a fan at Dodger Stadium.

 

MY ONE AND HALF CENT ON HOW SOCAL’S TWO BASEBALL TEAMS ARE DOING THESE FIRST FEW WEEKS OF THE SEASON

 

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: 26-19, tied for second place in the National League West, two games behind the Colorado Rockies

Leading Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (who else?), 7-2, 2.15 ERA

Leading Hitter: Cody Bellinger – .299 average, 9 home runs, 24 RBI

 

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: 23-23, third place in the American League West, seven games behind the Houston Astros

Leading Pitcher: Bud Norris (closer), 2.82 ERA, 8 saves

Leading Hitter: Mike Trout – .350 average, 14 home runs, 34 RBIs

 

A FEW VERY BRIEF WORDS:

I’ll make this simple, short, and sweet…

The Dodgers are doing quite okay, but in my view haven’t done as well as I thought so far.

The Angels? Despite their unrelenting pitching concerns – namely keeping their hurlers healthy – they’ve done better than I expected.

Both teams have well over 100 games to be played, so it’s much too early for me to proclaim final assessments on either of them.

In the meantime, I’ve posted some videos of some of the Dodgers’ and Angels’ biggest highlights of 2017 to this point, courtesy of YouTube.

So enjoy, starting with those blue-clad guys from Chavez Ravine:

 

 

Highlights from the Dodgers’ most recent game, a 6-2 win over the Miami Marlins (They SO need to go back to being called the Florida Marlins if you ask me!)

 

 

The best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, doing his thing…

 

 

MY CHOICE FOR THE TOP DODGER HIGHLIGHT OF THE SEASON TO DATE: L.A. hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs in the 9th inning to tie the Philadelphia Phillies and eventually beat them on April 29th…

 

 

All right, here are some highlight clips from those red-clad Halos from Orange County:

 

The Angels’ most recent outing; riding four home runs, including a grand slam by C. J. Cron, to beat the New York Mets 12-5…

 

 

Another Angel highlight clip from their May 12th win over the Detroit Tigers – watch for the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, hitting a home run near the end…

 

 

MY CHOICE FOR THE TOP ANGEL HIGHLIGHT OF THE SEASON TO DATE: Those Halos scoring seven runs in the ninth inning to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 10-9, on April 9th at Angel Stadium…

 

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday, March 27, 2014 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2014 The Angels’ future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols exchanging pleasantries with Dodger veteran Adrian Gonzalez.

SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS’ 200th POST!

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An artist’s rendition of the new state of the art stadium currently being built in Inglewood that will house the Rams and the Chargers in 2019…

 

CELEBRATING TWO HUNDRED ARTICLES ON THIS SPORTS BLOG

I didn’t realize until a couple of weeks ago or so that the number of articles on this site was approaching 200.

That amount of posts on any site or blog needs to be acknowledged.

Being the founder, editor, and main writer of SoCal Sports Annals, I suppose I can feel glad for what has been accomplished here.

Particularly since this is a small site; I never expected it to be as big as Bleacher Report or Fansided, two sites that I wrote for, and it’s not – not even close.

However…

The fact that it has gotten as many as 204 reads in one day and has stayed steady in the daily number of visits,

As well as having nearly 1,100 followers on its Twitter page and over 140 “Likes” on its Facebook page,

Tells me that I’m doing something right.

My ultimate goal for SoCal Sports Annals has changed a bit in its two and half years of existence, as while the major pro and college teams in the Southland will continue to have a presence on this site,

I also want to put more of an emphasis on covering and writing about things that don’t necessarily get any real coverage on the mainstream sites.

 

 

I know this will seem a bit biased of me, being that I’m a UCLA alum, but this video of Sophina DeJesus’ floor exercise routine in 2016 – which went viral – is not only an illustration of my goal to cover things not usually covered, but also of the SoCal team that I enjoy the most. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

The stuff I’ve written about UCLA’s women’s gymnastics program and the various high school and youth baseball teams that play in my area – Los Angeles’ Westside – are  examples of this.

And it’s something that I plan to expand on as it’s on my intent list to cover and write about things like youth soccer – I have a friend whose daughter plays on a club team – and volleyball, both indoor and beach – I have a cousin who’s likewise on a club team.

It’s articles like that which will keep this blog interesting and not merely another site talking about the Dodgers, Lakers, UCLA, USC, and the other major teams in SoCal; stuff that everyone else is covering.

In other words, I don’t want to do anything that’s been done to death, which is why save for the annual Crosstown Rivalry football game between the Bruins and the Trojans, there hasn’t been any previews or recaps of contests on this blog.

Another ultimate goal for SoCal Sports Annals is for it to expand to the point where it can be like an online magazine, complete with a (small) staff of young people for whom this site could be a source of gaining journalism experience.

That would be a very good way for me to help the community.

I suppose there’s not too much else to say, except that it’s my hope and prayer that the next 200 articles are as successful as the first 200.

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to become one of this site’s followers as well as follow us on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/socalshfanatic

And Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/SoCalSportsHub

Trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed in doing so, as this sports fan blog moves forward.

 

Dodger Stadium honoring the jersey number of the best athlete to ever come out of Southern California, period; if you don’t know who that is, I don’t know what to tell you…

LOS ANGELES SPARKS: WNBA Champs Celebrating Their 20th Anniversary

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Sparks celebrating their VERY hard-earned third WNBA title last season…

 

LOS ANGELES SPARKS

First Season: 1997, finished 14-14 and didn’t qualify for the WNBA playoffs

Most Recent Season: 2016, WNBA CHAMPIONS after finishing 26-8 in the regular season (2nd in the Western Conference) and beating the Chicago Sky in the WNBA Semifinals and the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA Finals

Overall 2016 Record: 32-11

Number of WNBA Championships: THREE – 2001, 2002, 2016

All-Time Overall Record: 398-264

All-Time Leading Scorer: Lisa Leslie, 1997-2009, 445 points (also all-time WNBA leading scorer)

 

 

The most exciting finish in WNBA (& perhaps all of basketball) history, provided by the Sparks in the finish of Game 5 of the 2016 WNBA Finals. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Other Notable Players:

Candace Parker – current player and considered the best player on the Sparks

Tameka Dixon – Original Sparks player, played for nine seasons

DeLisha Milton-Jones – Played most WNBA games in history (497), including two tours with the Sparks, 1999-2004, 2008-2012

Kristi Toliver – All-time Sparks leader in three-point percentage and free throw percentage

Penny Toler – Original Sparks player, 1997-1999, currently the Sparks’ general manager

Retired Numbers:

Lisa Leslie, #9

Penny Toler, #11

Home: Staples Center, capacity 19,079

First Game, 2017: vs Seattle Storm at Staples Center, Saturday, May 13th, 2:00 p.m.

 

 

Celebrating their WNBA crown at Staples Center, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

Celebrating a win over the New York Liberty at Staples Center. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

A Few Thoughts:

Being an essential part, one of the best teams, of the most successful women’s sports league in U.S. history is certainly something to celebrate as they and the WNBA mark the 20th anniversary of their league.

I’m not exactly sure if the average sports fan in Southern California realizes that these Sparks were the only champions to call Los Angeles home over the past year.

And winning their title in a most exciting fashion on top of that as their winning basket was scored with less than three seconds left in the deciding game of what’s widely considered the greatest women’s basketball game ever played.

And one of the best basketball games in general.

The only concern for me is whether or not the Sparks will suffer from a hangover this upcoming season, let down and not perform as well after all the excitement.

 

 

A highlight clip of the Sparks’ 2001 and 2002 championship seasons, courtesy of YouTube.

 

One thing is for sure…

It is my full intention to attend a Sparks game at Staples Center this summer.

I’ve been wanting to for the past few years, but I’ve somehow been unable to find the time.

Not this year – I am determined as I not only want to see a women’s pro basketball game, but also see Staples Center for the first time as I’ve regrettably never been there.

Of course an article describing what I’m sure will be quite the experience watching the Sparks and checking out the home of that team as well as the Lakers, Clippers and Kings will appear on this site.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m very much looking forward to checking those Sparks out!

 

Candace Parker, the Sparks’ current star who led them to the WNBA championship in 2016…

LOS ANGELES GALAXY: A Little History By The Numbers

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A group shot of the Galaxy before a game at StubHub Center…

 

LOS ANGELES GALAXY

First Season: 1996, finished 24-8 overall – 1st in the Western Conference – and reached the Major League Soccer semifinals

Most Recent Season: 2015, finished 14-11-9 – 5th in the Western Conference – and lost to the Seattle Sounders in the playoffs

Number of MLS Cups (Championships): FIVE – 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014 (most in MLS history)

All-Time Overall Record: 307 wins – most in MLS history, the only team to win 300 games – 216 losses, 139 ties, 1,038 points (the only MLS team with 1,000 points)

All-Time Leading Scorer: Landon Donovan, 2005-2014, 2016, 113 goals (all-time leading scorer in MLS, too)

 

 

A Galaxy player dribbling the ball quite nicely. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

 

Other Notable Players:

Cobi Jones – one of the first Galaxy stars, scored 70 goals in a 12-year career.

David Beckham – One of England’s superstars for Manchester United before coming to the Galaxy in 2007. With his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria (Posh Spice) Adams, makes for a great couple as well.

Robbie Keane – Perhaps Ireland’s greatest soccer player, led the Galaxy in scoring four straight years.

Steven Gerrard – Longtime superstar for Liverpool FC, contributed well for the Galaxy

Jorge Campos – Longtime star for the Mexican National team, played with the Galaxy for two years.

Carlos Ruiz – Led the Galaxy to its first MLS crown in 2002, scored 50 goals in three seasons.

Giovani Dos Santos (current player)

Home: StubHub Center, Carson, CA, capacity 27,000

Current Record: 2-5-2, 8 points, 9th place in the MLS Western Conference

 

A video of the Galaxy’ first of five MLS championships, won in 2002. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

https://semper.soccersavings.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Los_Angeles_Galaxy.jpg

Cool logo! Image courtesy of semper.soccersavings.com

 

 

The Galaxy’s most recent title, won in 2014, Courtesy of YouTube.

 

A Few Brief Thoughts:

It’s crystal clear for everyone to see that this Galaxy franchise has been a credit and an asset to sports in SoCal, with their five championships and having won more game than any pro soccer team in the U.S.

Which unfortunately makes their fall this year all the more spectacular as they are far closer to the bottom of the standings than the top, with prognostications for the season not being good for this team at all.

That doesn’t – nor does it should – take away from the Galaxy’s achievements as they commence on rebuilding their team.

For this year, the only thing that can be said to Galaxy fans is to just weather the storm…

 

A good shot of the Angel City Brigade, the Galaxy’s official fan club

THE END OF THE LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (as we know them)?

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PLAYA VISTA, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: poses for a portrait during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Center on September 25, 2015 in Playa Vista, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Michael Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

MY ONE CENT ON THE CLIPPERS’ LATEST DEMISE AND THEIR FUTURE

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Final Regular Season Record:  51-31, Second Place in the Pacific Division, Fourth Place in the Western Conference

* Lost to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, 4 games to 3

 

Just a Few Thoughts:

When Blake Griffin went down with that toe injury in Game 4, I knew that would be the end for those Clippers.

Again.

The worst part of all this was the fact that even if they had won that Game 7, it would have only earned them a two-week reprieve as they would have been absolutely crushed by the Golden State Warriors in the next round.

I recently read that the Clippers are the first team in NBA history to lose series after having a lead in five straight seasons.

Considering that Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick have formed a nucleus of a franchise that up until their arrival spent pretty much of its existence in the most pathetic of wildernesses,

Which they led the Clippers out of in a BIG way, taking over local pro basketball superiority over their Laker counterparts (and I don’t want to hear about the 16 titles as that’s ancient history),

The fact that despite all that talent, Doc Rivers’ team has never reached even the conference finals, let alone the NBA Finals, leaves me with an ultimate one-world judgement of this team…

UNDERACHIEVEMENT

 

Highlights of the Clippers’ last win of 2016-17: Their 98-93 triumph over Utah in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in Salt Lake City. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

It’s not surprising in the least that the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke has practically ordered a complete do-over rebuild, stating several times in his latest column to “Blow them up”.

I’m sure millions of folks concur with what Plaschke is saying after these years of postseason failures.

But what do I think?

First, the obvious fact that the team will look quite different next November as Griffin, Paul, and Redick are all free agents.

People are saying that Griffin and Paul will resign while Redick, enticed by what will likely be a more lucrative offer, will be wearing another uniform next season.

The other thing that I know regarding this Clipper ship is this:

Since I don’t have a crystal ball, I have no idea what will happen with the Clippers’ nucleus but I do know one thing:

Something definitely needs to change, something different needs to be tried.

Because what these Clippers have been doing for the past few years, while MUCH better than the Lakers or what their state was for SO long, is not working.

To not make changes will result in more of the same – underachieving disappointment.

Which Clipper Nation, one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports, does not deserve.

 

Face it, Clipper Nation: your season ended when this man went down…

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY AFTERNOON (Natural) LIGHTS: High School Softball in SoCal

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The site of the Santa Monica vs Culver City softball game which I attended and enjoyed.

 

CHECKING OUT A SOFTBALL GAME FEATURING TWO HIGH SCHOOLS WHICH I HAVE A PERSONAL HISTORY WITH

Sometime in April, 1986 (I think).

I was on the coaching staff of the JV softball team at Santa Monica High School, where I had graduated from ten months before; I hadn’t even reached my 19th birthday!

Our Vikings had a fairly big non-league game against nearby Culver City High’s Centaurs on our home field at Memorial Park, a place where I did everything sports and baseball/softball related – play Little League and coach – except live there.

It was a VERY foggy afternoon, so much so that for a couple of the middle innings the outfielders couldn’t be seen!

That didn’t stop the game from being quite the exciting one, as Samohi (the first two letters of Santa, Monica, and High), staged quite the comeback in the last inning.

Being the third base coach that day, I don’t remember how many runs we scored, but I do vividly remember that we had the bases loaded with two outs and the winning run on second base.

Everyone was going nuts at the anticipation of triumphing over our Westside rivals in a walk-off fashion – until our batter, who had struck out on three pitches every time she batted and looked bad doing so, stepped up to the plate.

I definitely won’t mention her name; as I saw her come up and it was all I could do to make my reaction of “Oh, no!” not too overt.

To no surprise as she was by far the worst hitter on Samo’s team, Culver City’s pitcher struck her out on three pitches yet again and we lost 8-7 (I believe that’s what the score was).

Naturally that young girl was devastated as her teammates consoled her, but I couldn’t help thinking as the two teams shook hands that it was a great game.

 

Fast Forward 31 Years…

Since a prominent goal of mine for this site/blog is to cover sports that are not normally covered on other sports sites such as Fansided and Bleacher Report,

And since high school softball is certainly a sport that you won’t find (besides MaxPreps.com) on Yahoo or MSN’s pages,

I thought it would be extremely cool to check out a game featuring the school I graduated from (Samohi) vs the school that not only was around the corner from where I live (Culver City), but was also part of the district where I had once worked as an elementary school P.E. teacher.

In short, it was the school that educated me vs the school from the district that once paid me.

Which was the prominent thing in my mind as I journeyed to Culver High’s softball facility one recent afternoon to see the Centaurs and the Vikings, who were now in the same league, get it on.

As someone who had coached softball for roughly twenty years, mostly at the youth level although I was able to serve on the coaching staff at a private school in 2007 (One of our games that year was against Culver High on that same field!), I felt like the wise old sage as I arrived at the diamond, watching the two teams warm up.

One thing I noticed was how young many of the coaches were, particularly on Santa Monica’s team as they didn’t look like they were more than five years older than the players. There was a Culver coach who fit that same bill; as she was hitting grounders I couldn’t help thinking, “Gee, she looks like the kids.”

Not that I had any problem with that of course, as you have to start your coaching career somewhere; the fact that I started on that path at 19 with Samo’s JV team as well as Little League was crystal clear proof of that.

I was impressed with Culver’s softball field as it was groomed very nicely with a smooth outfield.

And it was a more than decent-sized crowd, which included a group of folks sitting in lawn chairs down the left field line that looked quite comfy, that gathered to watch the battle that windy day, as Samohi and Culver High had become decent rivals in sports – softball in particular as the two teams have finished one-two in the Ocean League for I don’t know how long – on Los Angeles’ Westside.

Being an old coach, I found myself thinking like a scout as I watched the game unfold, analyzing things and reckoning about what I would do in the situations that came up.

I was impressed by the players on both sides; one girl I noticed was Samo’s pitcher, a senior left-hander named Kennedee Jamerson who threw hard and was headed to Cal State Northridge on a scholarship who did not disappoint as she struck out quite a few Centaur batters.

I was told that another one of Samo’s seniors was going to Pomona-Pitzer in the fall, but one young lady that stood out was sophomore catcher Isabel Gusman, the Vikings’ youngest player who, as part of a six-run third inning, smashed a two-run home run to center field, knocking Culver’s starter out.

I gave those Centaurs MUCH credit for continuing to play hard and not quitting despite a 6-1 deficit – MUCH kudos to head coach Javier Gabby Chacon and his staff for that – as there were stellar back-to-back plays by Culver City’s third baseman and center fielder late in the contest.

Not to mention freshman pitcher Lailah Bell shutting Samo down after that six-run outburst; I remember thinking how she should have started the game.

The game got particularly exciting at the end.

With one out in the 7th and last inning, Culver really showed their guts by not only loading the bases, but by pushing two runs across the plate – which of course pumped the Centaurs up – and getting the tying run up to bat.

Unfortunately that potential tying run grounded out to end the game, Samohi winning 7-4.

But that didn’t stop me from giving Culver Softball much respect for refusing to quit and battling to the end, which is the mark of a good team.

As well as being very impressed with both squads as I’m convinced that they will finish one-two in the Ocean League and will host the first round of the CIF playoffs; I told the coaches such after the game when I was wishing them well.

As well as saying that just like the two football teams in 2011, Santa Monica and Culver City could meet in the playoffs.

It was great example of a nice rivalry.

I certainly had a good time as I told players and coaches on both sides that if they do meet in the postseason, I would do my best to be there.

 

This didn’t happen against Culver City, but here’s Santa Monica’s Kennedee Jameson hitting a home run in another recent game. Courtesy of YouTube.

AN EVENING WITH UCLA SOFTBALL

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CHECKING OUT WHAT IS ARGUABLY THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OF ALL BRUIN SPORTS

 

Anytime I get a chance to see a college softball game featuring my alma mater, I make sure to not pass it up.

Particularly since I have a long history of being involved with softball – I’ve been pickup games on the weekends for over twenty years – as when Easton Stadium on the northwest tip of UCLA’s campus was first renovated in 1994, I was part of the coaching staff at Santa Monica College.

That February we were invited by the Bruins to play a scrimmage, which makes me part of the very first opponents to play the iconic UCLA program at the new ballpark.

That memory has always been prevalent in my mind whenever I visited that place, and this past Saturday was no exception as I did my duties with the UCLA Alumni Band for the Bruins’ game with California.

As was the case at Dodger Stadium nearly two months before when UCLA’s and USC’s baseball teams clashed, I kept score while playing fight songs and other tunes on my tenor saxophone every half inning.

Which kept me quite busy as the game moved at a fast pace, par for the course in fast pitch softball.

I made a point to get to Easton early as one of my favorite parts of being at a baseball or softball game is watching the teams take batting practice, which the Bruins did not disappoint in that area, either.

Easton Stadium is an intimate place, seating just over 1,500, which is good because as with all stadiums that size, every seat is a good one; I & the Alumni Band sat in the farthest seats on the left side, which was behind the UCLA dugout by third base.

Several pictures and displays celebrating the program’s NCAA-leading 12 national championships are spread out under the stands from third base to first base, offering a lesson on a UCLA softball tradition that rivals their men’s basketball brothers.

As For The Game Itself…

It drew a good crowd that was enthused, particularly over the free softballs that members of the UCLA Yell Crew threw into the stands after every strikeout.

Lots of young girls from places such as El Segundo and Montebello, wearing gear from their youth teams, dotted the place as they watched their heroes on the diamond.

It was quite exciting as the Bruins won a close one, 3-1, highlighted by two things that stood out for me:

* The bottom two hitters in the batting order, left fielder Gabrielle Maurice and right fielder Zoe Shaw, had four of UCLA’s six hits, Shaw going 3-for-3 and driving in two of their three runs while Maurice had the game’s only extra base hit, a double in the 4th inning,

and…

* Rachel Garcia, a freshman pitcher who I was most impressed with as in the game’s key moment, she stepped into the pitcher’s circle with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 6th inning and proceeded to completely shut the Cal Bears down, striking out two of Cal’s batters, electrifying the crowd and her teammates after the last Bear batter went down.

She then got the save an inning later.

All-in-all, it was a fun game as everyone enjoyed themselves, the Alumni Band playing a few post game tunes for the handful of fans lingering in the stands before calling it a night of adding some essential spice to an already fun atmosphere.

If you’re into softball at all, though it may sound a bit biased with me being a UCLA alum I highly recommend seeing a game at Easton Stadium.

It’s a fun time and you – and your child if she’s a softball player – won’t be disappointed.

 

Highlights from the UCLA game in which I had to pleasure to attend on Saturday, the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Cal. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

SOCAL COLLEGE BASEBALL 2017: A Look At Some Standout Teams

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A Bruin batting against a Trojan during a Crosstown Rivalry game at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Westwood. Photo courtesy of pac-12.com

 

CHECKING OUT WHAT’S UP IN SOCAL COLLEGE BASEBALL THIS YEAR

When I first began this site, I promised myself that when it came to covering baseball  I wouldn’t focus on just the Dodgers and the Angels.

I think I’ve done a decent job of that, what with reporting on the annual clash that UCLA and USC partakes in at Dodger Stadium each spring and checking out that CIF playoff game at Culver City High School last year.

As part of that “decent job”, I wanted to look at some of the college teams in SoCal having good seasons as the playoffs and the College World Series are just around the corner.

To be honest, in some ways I prefer college baseball over their major league counterparts;

  • It’s pure baseball rather than the sometimes circus atmosphere of Dodger Stadium or Angel Stadium,
  • Speaking of atmosphere, college baseball offer a more intimate one as the ballparks rarely seat more than 2,500; you don’t get that cramped feeling like you can at the big league stadiums.
  • Unlike their football and basketball counterparts, the players are more in it for the love of the game as with only 11.7 scholarships available per team, which averages 30 players, unless they get financial aid or grants they are footing at least half of their tuition – which is a lot of money at private schools like Loyola Marymount or USC.

So let’s get started with these looks at college baseball with my alma mater…

 

 

UCLA players congratulating each other during a win at Arizona State. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com

 

UCLA BRUINS

Won-Loss Records: 17-16, 9-6 and tied for 2nd place in the Pac-12 Conference

Coach: John Savage, 13th year

Most Recent Game: Beat Long Beach State, 2-1, in 11 innings on April 18th

Next Games: vs top-ranked Oregon State, April 21-23

Top Hitter: Sean Bouchard, Jr, 1B/OF – .331 average, 6 home runs, 24 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Griffin Canning, Jr: 3-2, 2.77 ERA

Jake Bird, Jr: 4-0, 2.79 ERA

 

 

 

USC’s baseball team before a game. Photo courtesy of usctrojans.com

 

USC TROJANS

Won-Loss Records: 18-17, 5-7 and tied for 7th place in the Pac-12 Conference

Coach: Ken Hubbs, 5th year

Most Recent Game: Lost to UC Irvine, 14-3, on April 18th

Next Games: at California, April 21-23

Top Hitter: Lars Nootbaar, Soph. 1B/OF – .319 average, 5 home runs, 25 RBI

Top Pitcher: Chris Clarke, Fr: 4-1, 4.89 ERA

 

 

 

A Cal State Fullerton pitcher and catcher congratulating each other after a win. Photo courtesy of fullertontitans.com

 

CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS

Won-Loss Records: 23-12, 5-1 and 1st place in the Big West Conference

Coach: Rick Vanderhook, 6th year

National Rank: 8th

Most Recent Game: Lost to San Diego, 11-6, on April 18th

Next Games: at Cal Poly, April 21 to 23

Top Hitter: Scott Hurst, Jr. OF – .305 average, 4 home runs, 22 RBI

Top Pitchers:

John Gavin, Jr: 5-0, 2.22 ERA

Brett Conine, Soph: 0.77 ERA, 7 saves

 

 

 

Those are some really cool uniforms that these Long Beach State Dirtbags are wearing! Photo courtesy of presstelegram.com

 

LONG BEACH STATE 49ers (Dirtbags)

Won-Loss Records: 22-13, 7-2 and 2nd place in the Big West Conference

Coach: Troy Buckley, 7th year

National Rank: 17th

Most Recent Game: Lost to UCLA, 2-1, in 11 innings on April 18th

Next Games: at UC Irvine, April 21 to 23

Top Hitters:

Lucas Tancas, Jr. OF – .333 average, 5 home runs, 18 RBI

Davis Banuelos, Jr. C – .300 average, 5 home runs, 20 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Darren McCaughan, Jr: 4-2, 2.88 ERA

John Sheaks, Jr: 5-1, 2.90 ERA

 

 

An official team photo of Loyola Marymount’s Lions from Westchester, just north of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Photo courtesy of lmulions.com

 

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS

Won-Loss Records: 24-13, 11-4 and 3rd place in the West Coast Conference

Coach: Jason Gill, 9th year

Most Recent Game: Beat Cal State Northridge, 6-1, on April 18th

Next Games: at Pepperdine (The Big Rivalry!), April 21 to 23

Top Hitter: Phil Caulfield, Sr. 2B – .369 average, 2 home runs, 27 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Codie Paiva, Soph: 5-0, 1.47 ERA

Cory Abbott, Jr: 7-1, 2.12 ERA

 

 

Some members of UCLA’s baseball team honoring the greatest Bruin of all time by wearing throwback uniforms with the iconic #42. That their stadium is named after Jackie Robinson is quite appropriate as well. Photo courtesy of bruinsnation.com

UCLA WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS: 2017 Season Wrap-Up

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The Bruin gymnasts celebrating their finish at the Super Six. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com

 

UCLA BRUIN GYMNASTICS – 2017 AT A GLANCE

* Finished in a tie for third at the Pac-12 Championships with a score of 197.100

* Won the NCAA Champaign (IL) Regional with a score of 196.800

* Finished second in the NCAA Semifinals with a score of 196.800

* Finished fourth in the NCAA Super Six with a score of 197.2625

* Earned TEN perfect tens – Kyla Ross with four, Christine Peng Peng Lee with three, Katelyn Ohashi with two and Madison Kocian with one.

* Set a single meet home attendance record against California on March 5th with a crowd of 12,576

Final Overall Record: 24-8-1

 

Kyla Ross capping an OUTSTANDING year with this floor routine. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

A Few Thoughts:

I knew when the Bruins signed those two Olympic gold medal winners that this season would be an exciting one.

And they did not disappoint as I had the privilege of viewing eight of the ten perfect tens that those gymnasts excited the crowds at Pauley Pavilion and Bruin Nation with.

OK, so they didn’t win their 7th national championship (and the school’s nation-leading 114th).

 

The biggest highlight for the Bruins in the NCAA Super Six: Christine Peng Peng Lee’s perfect ten on the balance beam. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

Another big highlight for UCLA in St. Louis: Katelyn Ohashi’s 9.95 on the beam. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

But UCLA’s fourth place finish is an obvious improvement over last year’s 5th place finish.

And a clear sign that the team is making very good progress, to the point that with Ross, Kocian, Ohashi, and other standouts like Stella Savvidou, Janay Honest, Madison Preston, Sonya Meraz, and Napulani Hall returning (and maybe Lee if the NCAA grants her a sixth year of eligibility),

A national title should not be unexpected within the next few years.

 

Madison Kocian getting some encouragement before a routine. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

On a personal note, this team is pretty much the only one where I feel sad when the season ends, because they provide so much enjoyment.

It should certainly go without saying that I am very much looking forward to next season.

As should the rest of Bruin Nation, who needs to be proud of these athletes for the way they represent the UCLA community.

Being that they represent my alma mater, I certainly am proud.

Until next January, Bruin gymnasts…

 

Hallie Mossett in the midst of her dynamic floor routine during the Super Six. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com