February 26, 2015
LOS ANGELES — UCLA’s David Berg is on course to be the greatest closer in college baseball history.
The 6-foot, 194-pound right-handed sidearm pitcher has put up staggering numbers since his freshman year for the Bruins.
In three years:
Berg has 132 appearances in three seasons (50 in 2012, 51 in 2013 and 31 in 2014.
He is only 29 appearances away from the NCAA Division I record of 161 held by David Teasley of Mercer (2010-13).
He registered an NCAA record-tying 51 appearances during the 2013 season.
Berg posted an NCAA record 24 saves in 2013.
In 132 appearances over his first three seasons, he only blew three saves. And all three times, he came back to post a win.
When hitters are able to get on base against Berg, they rarely have a chance to steal because of his quickness to home (0.95 seconds). That is why he has only allowed 2 stolen bases in 6 attempts over three seasons (200 innings). There is no doubt this also is an all-time record, but the NCAA does not keep this unique achievement by pitchers.
Heading into his senior year, he has posted 36 saves.
In 200 innings pitched over three seasons, the Louisville Slugger first team All-American has a remarkable 1.26 ERA with only 36 walks and 176 strikeouts.
As hard as it is to believe, five seasons ago at Bishop Amat High School (La Puente, Calif.), his pitching career was on the rocks.
During his junior year, he only was allowed to pitch 9 1/3 innings as he was learning to throw as a sidewinder from his normal ¾ arm slot. He had a 6.00 ERA with 4 walks and 3 hit batters as he gave up 8 earned runs.
“David came in as an outfielder/pitcher as a freshman and was a good athlete,” said former Bishop Amat Head Coach Andy Nieto.
“Entering the fall of his junior year, he was having some difficulty pitching on the varsity level. It just wasn’t happening.
“I talked to my pitching coach Chris Beck and told him that we had to ‘Muckey’ him.
“There is a well known coach in Southern California by the name of Scott Muckey at Crespi High School who annually turns one of his pitchers into a sidearmer to give opponent hitters a different look.
“Both Chris and I felt David would be a good candidate to try this. There was no guarantee it would work.
“So we talked to David about it, and he took it from there as he worked extremely hard to learn this new delivery. And he wasn’t allowed to throw over the top any more. From that point on, he was only allowed to throw as a sidearmer.”
Nieto acknowledged that Berg had a tough junior year as he worked on his new arm angle.
“In fact, it took about a year for him to figure out how to throw from this arm slot with a completely new release point.”
During Berg’s junior year, he appeared to be a nervous wreck when he did pitch as he walked halfway to the plate to retrieve balls from his catcher and constantly paced around the mound.
Nieto and pitching coach Chris Beck had to remind Berg to stay on the pitching circle.
“He was definitely a pacer at that time. But now he has grown up physically and mentally and has a chance to pitch in the Big Leagues. He has shown he can pitch to both right and left handed hitters which is rare for a sidearmer.
“We could see the potential he had, but David just needed some work at the change. We knew he was a diamond in the rough. The movement he had with the new arm angle was terrific, and the deception was superb. We felt if he tackled this new arm slot with the commitment he had in the classroom, he would make it work. And boy has he ever.”
Amazing Senior Year
His senior year at Bishop Amat was sensational with a 7-1 record, 1.05 ERA and 4 saves as he led the Lancers to the CIF championship with a 29-4 overall record.
He had 21 appearances in 33 games that season and threw 46 2/3 innings. It was a transformation for the ages.
To read more about David Berg and how he has become one of the top closers in college baseball history, purchase the Feb. 20, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.