Judging from the crowd at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE and the broadcasters at ESPN, it was a safe bet that no one, save for the relative handful of UCLA fans in the stands, gave the Bruins much of a chance vs. 4th seeded and top-ranked Louisiana State in the College World Series on Sunday night.
It was also apparent that John Savage’s team forgot to read the memo – or if they did, just plain didn’t give a care – as in front of an audience of 26,344 that was likely around 98% LSU, UCLA, who at 44-17 had the worst record among the eight teams in Omaha, used their formula of strong pitching and small ball to beat the Tigers, 2-1, and advance to the winner’s bracket.
The Bruins will next face North Carolina State, which beat #1-seeded North Carolina, on Tuesday, June 18th at 5:00 p.m. PT.
That game, as with all the College World Series games, will be televised by ESPN.
Adam Plutko was the hero for UCLA on Sunday as he matched LSU’s all-galaxy pitcher Aaron Nola, who had a 12-0 record and a 1.68 earned run average going into the game, pitch for pitch, giving up but four hits and a run to an LSU lineup that was the opposite of the Bruins in hitting, batting .308 as a team.
Plutko was very efficient as 12 of the outs he got were in the air, taking advantage of TD Ameritrade’s wide open spaces as Mason Katz was the only Tiger that got to him, hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning.
After UCLA used two LSU errors to score the tying run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth and to take the lead in the eighth, David Berg, who leads the nation with his 0.88 ERA, made Bruin Nation sweat a bit when two LSU runners got on base in the ninth, but succeeded in getting his 22nd save – and the Bruins’ 45th win – when JaCoby Jones popped out to right field.
The Tigers now sport a mark of 57-10 as they now face elimination against North Carolina on Tuesday.
“It was quite a game,” Savage commented afterwards. “But we are a resilient bunch. We caught some breaks…fortunately we came out on top.”