A funny thing happened to the UCLA Bruins at the College World Series on Friday night…
After scoring a mere two runs in each of their two previous games, the Bruins failed to do that against the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels.
They doubled that total, with first baseman Pat Gallagher and designated hitter Kevin Williams having two hits apiece as they clinched a spot in the championship series with their 4-1 win over North Carolina in Omaha, NE.
“I thought we had better at-bats tonight,” comented coach John Savage after the game. “We’re capable offensively…They are just as good as any part of our game.”
The Bruins’ .185 average in Omaha will say otherwise, but here they are, the quintessential testament to how pitching and defense wins games.
It will be the second time in four years – and the second time in their history – that UCLA will play for the NCAA title.
Grant Watson was just as stellar as fellow Bruin starters Adam Plutko and Nick VanderTuig on Friday, scattering four hits in six innings.
David Berg came on in the ninth, with everyone expecting a one-two-three inning, but it didn’t work out that way as Berg made Bruin Nation sweat.
He gave up two walks, two hits and a run, loading the bases twice before getting North Carolina designated hitter Landon Lassiter – who had three hits in the game – to fly out to center field, ending the Tar Heels season at 59-12.
“Luckily, the offense picked me up,” Berg said afterwards.
Standing in UCLA’s way to their first national championship – and the school’s nation-leading 109th – is Mississippi State, who beat fellow Pac-12 school (and conference champion) Oregon State 4-1 eariler on Friday to secure their berth in the best-of-three series.
Game One is on Monday, June 24, with Game Two on Tuesday, June 25 and Game Three (if necessary) on Wednesday, June 26.
All three games will be televised on ESPN and will start at 5:00 p.m. PT.
As to whether or not I think UCLA can beat the Bulldogs and claim their first crown…
Mississippi State has some good pitching and great hitting, led by Hunter Renfroe, whose 16 home runs – including a three-run shot against the Beavers – almost matches the entire Bruins team, and 6′ 5″, 272-pound first baseman Wes Rea, who makes people wonder why he’s not playing football for the Bulldogs.
An old baseball adage says “Good pitching beats good hitting”, and the Bruins (47-17) have plenty of that, allowing just three runs while sporting a sick 0.90 earned run average in this College World Series.
That’s why I think UCLA has a very good shot at ending up in a celebratory dogpile.
It will all depend if the pitching in general, starting and otherwise, can continue to perform like they have done this post-season, leading UCLA to an 8-0 record.
As well as whether or not they can keep hitting in a timely fashion.
One thing is for certain: John Savage has brought this baseball progam to unprecedented heights.
Now these Bruins need to finish the job.