OMAHA, Neb. — UCLA's route to the College World Series finals has been nothing if not adventurous.
The Bruins, who have been winning in Omaha despite a scuffling offense, got a two-run double from Pat Valaika to build a cushion, and then record-setting closer David Berg survived a rocky ninth inning to finish a 4-1 victory over top-seeded North Carolina on Friday night.
The Bruins (47-17) will begin the best-of-three finals Monday against Mississippi State, which eliminated Oregon State with a 4-1 win in the afternoon.
"I'm proud of our team, but we still haven't accomplished what we came to do," UCLA coach John Savage said. "On to the next round."
Savage, no doubt, is relieved to advance.
The Tar Heels (59-12) twice loaded the bases in the ninth against Berg but came away with only one run, with the game ending on Landon Lassiter's flyout to center.
Berg wasn't his usual dominant self in the Bruins' first two wins, and he really struggled against the Tar Heels.
"I would say he's been pushed," Savage said. "But come on, you get run out there as much as he does, I mean, you're not going to go 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Things are going to happen.
"He's one of the major reasons why we're here. He can screw up every now and then, it's OK."
The elimination of North Carolina, which set a school record for wins, means the Atlantic Coast Conference will go without a national title in baseball again. The last ACC team to win the championship was Wake Forest in 1955. And the top seed hasn't won the College World Series since Miami in 1999.
"The end of the year, it always stinks," Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "What we did in the ninth inning is just indicative of our kids and how we played all year. Just fighting until the very end."
Both starters went six innings, with the Bruins' Grant Watson (9-3) allowing four hits and Kent Emanuel (11-5) giving up five singles and striking out seven.
UCLA opened the CWS with 2-1 victories over LSU and North Carolina State. The Bruins, with eight total runs, matched 1976 Eastern Michigan for fewest by a team in the metal-bat era that won its first three CWS games.
The Bruins scored single runs in the second and sixth innings and made it 4-0 in the seventh on Valaika's double.
North Carolina threatened in the fourth and seventh innings but couldn't push across any runs until Berg, the National Stopper of the Year, came on to start the ninth.
Cody Stubbs and Sky Bolte singled, and Berg walked Michael Russell to load the bases. Savage made a mound visit after Berg went 1-0 to Mike Zolk, whose groundout scored Stubbs.
Berg struck out Parks Jordan, and the bases were loaded again when he walked Chaz Frank. When Lassiter's fly landed in Brian Carroll's glove, the Bruins' dugout emptied in celebration.
"I have the same approach every game — go there and try to get a pitch you can hit and see what happens," Lassiter said, "and we just fell short."
|Boston - WP: M. Ott||4||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: M. Hoffman||3|
|UC Santa Barbara||38|
|San Diego St||73|
|Utah Valley U||83|
|Cal State Fullerton||56||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||66|
|Sam Houston St||70|
|New Mexico St||70|
|Miss Valley St||68||FINAL|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||69|
|William & Mary||65|
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