Let’s take a look at UCLA baseball’s all-time starting nine in this edition of the NCAA.com series of the best possible starting lineups for some of college baseball’s most successful programs.
Here is how we picked the team: We dug deep in the record books, only considering the players’ college careers. Their achievements in professional baseball did not come into play. There was also consideration given to their positional fits and how well they fit into a batting order we made based on historical stats that could provide a combination of high batting averages, speed, and power.
With the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic coming up, it seemed the right time to look into UCLA’s history. It’s a rich one for sure, with Jackie Robinson getting his baseball start with the Bruins, albeit, not quite matching the numbers he would later become known for. The UCLA program took a solid turn in the 90s, producing some of the programs most dangerous hitters that made up a bulk of this lineup.
Eric Byrnes, outfield (1995-98)
Ideally, the leadoff spot would go to Dave Roberts, the program’s single-season and career leader in runs. But Byrnes blended every aspect of the game incredibly well, in the top 10 of every offensive category from home runs to stolen bases, and is more in the mold of today’s leadoff hitter. Byrnes left UCLA tops in runs scored (235), hits (326), and doubles (75), numbers that still stand today.
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3 North Carolina
4 Oregon State
7 Mississippi State
10 Ole Miss
11 Florida State
14 Texas Tech
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Torey Lovullo, second base (1984-88)
You can make a very strong case for Chase Utley, who split time at second and short during his time at UCLA, finding his name all over the Bruins’ record book. The same can be said for Lovullo, who ended his Bruins career fifth in home runs (51), third in RBI (188), tied for second in runs (211), third in hits (266), ninth in doubles (45), and the UCLA leader in walks (180). That kind of production across the board is perfect for the top of the lineup.
Ryan McGuire, first base (1991-93)
First base was no easy decision. Chris Chambliss is hard to overlook. He hit .340 with a then-program record 15 home runs to lead the Bruins to their first College World Series trip in his lone 1969 season. Eric Karros had a tremendous 1988, batting .415 with 17 home runs. But McGuire strung together three solid seasons, giving him the nod.
Coming off a successful sophomore season, McGuire had a monster junior campaign in 1993. He hit .376 with 26 home runs and 91 RBI for one of the best single seasons in program history. He left the program in the top 10 in home runs and RBI as one of the more successful run producers in UCLA history.
Troy Glaus, shortstop (1995-97)
Glaus got off a slow start to his Bruins career, hitting just .258 with two home runs in split time his freshman season. He exploded as a sophomore before having arguably the Bruins single greatest season in program history. Glaus hit .409 with 34 home runs and 91 RBI in his finale with UCLA. He won the PAC-10 player of the year while setting the conference record for total bases in leading UCLA to its second College World Series.
Eric Valent, outfield (1996-98)
This shows the depth of sluggers UCLA has produced when the program’s all-time home run leader is batting fifth. Let’s welcome Valent, yet another all-time run producer for the Bruins, to the heart of the lineup. He and Byrnes roamed the same outfield together making for some fun baseball. Valent is not only the programs all-time leader in home runs (69) but RBI (219) and is one of two Bruins to have a 30-homer season. Valent hit over .330 in both his second and third season, blasting 47 of his home runs.
Shane Mack, outfield (1982-84)
You simply can’t leave off the “Mack Attack.” The two-time All-American had a great run at UCLA and was part of the iconic 1984 US Olympic team featuring college legends Will Clark and Oddibe McDowell, just to name a few. That 1984 campaign at UCLA was good (.352, 16 home runs, 53 RBI) but his sophomore campaign the year before was even better, when he hit .419 for the fourth-best single season average in program history.
Garrett Atkins, third base (1998-2000)
Atkins played both corners in his career at UCLA but was particularly impressive as a freshman at the hot corner, when hit .383 with nine home runs and 54 RBI. He finished his career with his name all over the UCLA record book, No. 2 all-time in hits (276), third in doubles (56), in batting average (.368), ninth in home runs (40) and runs scored (180), and tenth in RBI with 167.
Paul Ellis, catcher (1989-90)
This was a difficult position to pick as well. Todd Zeile had back-to-back strong seasons in 1985 and 86, eclipsing .330 and 10 home runs in both seasons. Don Slaught had a monster campaign in 1979, hitting .428 with seven home runs. Tim DeCinces was as steady as they come, and consistent threat behind the plate and at it from 1994-96.
Ultimately Ellis gets the nod because his 1990 season was the best for a catcher in UCLA history. He was a consensus All-American, hitting .360 with 29 home runs and 83 RBI. The home runs led the nation and the RBI set a then-single-season program record.
Trevor Bauer, starting pitcher (2009-11)
The Bruins only Golden Spikes Award winner in program history was a relatively easy pick. That 2011 rotation of Bauer, Gerrit Cole, and Adam Plutko have all become big-leaguers thanks to that phenomenal season, but Bauer’s stood out as one of the best in UCLA history.
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Bauer won 13 games behind a minuscule 1.25 ERA, striking out a program and conference record 203 hitters (which broke his own program record of 165 set the year prior). He tied Tim Leary’s 1979 Bruins’ record with 10 complete games. Bauer finished his career as the all-time leader in wins (34) and strikeouts (460).
John Savage, head coach
The last three head coaches for UCLA all achieved career records over .500, so this was no easy task. What it came down to were 2010 and 2013. While Gary Adams has the most wins in program history, Savage has the biggest. After falling short in extra innings in UCLA’s first trip to the CWS championship series after a program-record 51-win 2010 season, Savage and his Bruins won the 2013 national title, the only one in UCLA history. That Bruins team did it without a single loss in the tournament.