OMAHA, Neb. — UCLA followed its script yet again.
The Bruins churned out a few early runs and let their pitching and defense take care of the rest in a 3-1 victory over Mississippi State on Monday night in the opener of the College World Series finals.
They're one win from their first national championship in baseball and their school's record 109th in a team sport.
"We dodged some bullets, no doubt about it, but you have to give credit to our defense," UCLA coach John Savage said. "Kind of a Bruin game. Tight game, and at the end of the night we were fortunate to come out with the win."
The Bruins (48-17) know it won't be easy to finish off a Mississippi State team that had an estimated 8,000 fans migrate from the Magnolia State to be at TD Ameritrade Park to see their team play for the school's first national title in any sport.
Adam Plutko limited the Bulldogs (51-19) to a run on four hits in six innings and turned the game over to his bullpen. The Bulldogs left runners in scoring position in four of the last six innings.
"They're great hitters, they grind it out every at-bat, and they're not going away," UCLA closer David Berg said. "They want to win this thing as bad as we do. They're not going to give it up."
Bulldogs second baseman Brett Pirtle said he and his teammates can't give the Bruins any openings because they're so capable of capitalizing on them.
"Nobody that's extra special," Pirtle said of the Bruins. "They're just small ball. They bunt and put pressure on the defense, and that's what helped them out, and that's the kind of ballclub they are. So keeping runners off base and just catching the ball and putting pressure on them will help us win the game tomorrow."
The Bruins can play some defense, too. Eric Filia ran in to catch Trey Porter's line drive to right with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth, and he robbed Nick Ammirati of extra bases with a catch on the warning track in the fifth. Second baseman Cody Regis made a couple diving stops and also started both of UCLA's double plays.
UCLA is 40-0 when leading after seven innings. There was drama all the way to the end.
The Bruins made it 3-0 in the fourth on Filia's two-out, two-run single off Chad Girodo, who replaced starter Trevor Fitts (0-1) in the second. That was the last of the Bruins' six hits.
Mississippi State's fans started the "Maroon and White" chant in the bottom of the ninth after C.T. Bradford and pinch-hitter Sam Frost singled to put runners on first and second with one out against Berg.
Nick Ammirati flew out, and pinch-hitter Jacob Robson ended the game with his comebacker to Berg, who sprinted toward first base before under-handing the ball to Pat Gallagher.
Berg, making his 50th appearance of the season, earned his NCAA-record 24th save for 1 2-3 innings of work.
"Records are meant to be broken, but titles are what matter," Berg said. "So if we all win a national championship, I'll enjoy that. But right now I don't think about it at all."
The loss spoiled a splendid performance by Girodo, who pitched the last 7 2-3 innings. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out nine. Both runs against him were unearned.
Plutko (10-3) walked in Mississippi State's only run in the fourth. He wasn't overly sharp, but he continued his impressive run in postseason play. In eight career NCAA tournament games, he's 7-0 with an 0.94 ERA.
|Univ of Minnesota||1||FINAL|
|SE Missouri St||74||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||58|
|New Mexico St||69||FINAL|
|San Jose St||51|
|San Diego St||60||FINAL|
|UC Santa Barbara||80||2nd Half 4:25|
|Coll of Charleston||58||FINAL|
|William & Mary||68|
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