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After slow start, Gig Harbor grad Toglia finds groove in freshman season at UCLA

UCLA freshman and Gig Harbor grad Michael Toglia was named to the All-American Freshman Team. Toglia was also named an All-Pac 12 honorable mention.
UCLA freshman and Gig Harbor grad Michael Toglia was named to the All-American Freshman Team. Toglia was also named an All-Pac 12 honorable mention. Courtesy

UCLA freshman and Gig Harbor High School 2016 grad Michael Toglia was named to the Freshman All-American Team. Toglia was also named All-Pac 12 honorable mention.

“That was pretty cool,” Toglia said of the All-American honor. “I was actually one of the last people to know. Half my teammates had texted me before I even knew about it.”

And earning a mention on an all-conference list as a freshman? Not bad, either.

“It was pretty humbling,” Toglia said. “It’s a really prestigious baseball conference, so to get any kind of accolade is a huge achievement. It’s something I’m proud of, but it’s not something I’m going to settle for.”

Toglia, who played right field for the Bruins, finished second on the team with eight home runs, 33 RBIs and a .483 slugging percentage. He finished the season batting .261 and was in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in home runs and walks. He also scored 31 runs and recorded 19 extra-base hits.

During conference play, Toglia hit .312 with 25 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He slugged .434 with five home runs and recorded a .434 on-base percentage. Toglia was top-10 in Pac-12 play in slugging, on-base percentage, RBIs, home runs and walks.

“I thought (the season) went really well,” he said. “It was a big learning curve in the beginning of the year. My first home run didn’t come until there were 20 or so games left.”

The first half of the season, Toglia struggled, acclimating to higher-level pitching and higher-level baseball, in general.

“You have to be open to swing a lot more,” Toglia said. “In high school, most pitchers couldn’t really locate their off-speed pitches. All the pitchers at this level have multiple pitches they can locate for strikes. I was really passive early in the count, which put me behind in every at bat.”

The key to the turnaround, for the most part, was simply being more aggressive with his approach. Once he did, Toglia adjusted quickly and became a top player for UCLA and in the conference.

“I loved every moment of it,” Toglia said.

UCLA made the NCAA regionals this season and was the No. 3 seed in its group. The No. 1 seed, Long Beach State, was the group’s winner. While UCLA didn’t make it to the Super Regionals round, Toglia was proud of the team’s season nonetheless.

“That was really cool to get a taste of playoff baseball,” he said. “It’s really special. It’s different from anything else we saw as we went through the season. There’s more of a buzz in the crowd.”

One of Toglia’s best games came on the road against crosstown rival USC. He drove in a career-high six runs with three hits including a pair of doubles on May 6.

“That’s a new rivalry for me, not being from California,” Toglia said. “I never grew up with that rivalry. I got to experience that for the first time, so that was really awesome.”

Toglia is studying engineering, and said he enjoyed his first year of college in Westwood.

“I just enjoyed bonding with my freshmen class,” Toglia said. “We have a special group of guys. Everyone came out of their shell and we had a great time.”

Toglia is wrapping up finals and will head him to Gig Harbor for a few days before taking off to Massachusetts for summer ball. Toglia will play for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League.

“It’s known for being a league you want to be in,” Toglia said.

Toglia, with his eye on the summer and already looking forward to his sophomore season, is striving to get even better.

“I think the biggest step for me is just (being) more consistent,” he said. “I need to cut back on strikeouts. I think it’ll be easier knowing what I know now from the second half of the season.”