June 24, 2013

CBI Live: UCLA 3, Mississippi State 1

Berg's Transformation


CWS Championship Series Game 1

Slick Defense Spurs UCLA

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


OMAHA, Neb. – Three and a half steps.


That’s how many steps – and how much time UCLA right fielder Eric Filia knew he had running full speed on the warning track before he would crash into the wall.


Filia got a terrific jump on a liner to the corner by Mississippi State catcher Nick Ammirati. He leaped and speared the ball before hitting the wall.


“Once he hit it, I just put my head down, saw the warning track and knew that I had 3½ steps to the fence and jumped up at the perfect time,” Filia said.


The catch highlighted a terrific night of defense by the Bruins, who find themselves one win away from their first national championship in college baseball and 109th in all sports. Cody Regis, a former third baseman, made a nice diving play to his left and turned in a slick 4-6-3 double play in one of the game’s biggest at-bats – Demarcus Henderson couldn’t get a bunt down twice before ripping a shot up the middle, where Regis backhanded, glove-flipped to shortstop Pat Valaika, who fired to first to get the speedy Henderson for a double play. Bruins coach John Savage called the play a “game-changer.”


“Our defense has been the key to our success in our postseason run,” Savage said. “It’s a credit to our pitchers, it’s a credit to our defense.”




Offensively, UCLA knows it doesn’t have to do much to win baseball games.


The Bruins scored 10 or more runs in six of their first 24 games and have reached that mark only three times in the past 41 games. Including a 5-2 loss to Cal State Fullerton on May 14, UCLA has averaged 3.76 runs a game, going 14-3 in those 17 games. That includes a 9-0 run this postseason – UCLA has scored 14 runs in their past five games dating to its Super Regional clincher against the Titans.


“It’s such a great pitching staff and defense,” Bruins shortstop Pat Valaika said. “We don’t really have to score that many runs. But it’s not like we’re only trying to score three runs.”




TD Ameritrade Park was awash with maroon.


Scores of Mississippi State fans flocked to Omaha for the Championship Series, accounting to more than three-quarters of the 25,690 fans in attendance Monday night.


“A lot of them are giving up vacation, work time, everything to be here,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. “That will always mean a lot to us. It means a lot before and a lot after.”




Bulldogs first baseman Wes Rea, who made a pair of nice backhand plays to get the Bulldogs out of innings, came into the postgame press conference with icepacks on his left knee and his left elbow.


In the top of the fourth, UCLA’s Brian Carroll bunted up the third-base line, where Mississippi State catcher Nick Ammirati fielded, spun and threw up the line to first. Rea, trying to stop the ball collided with Carroll and went down hard.


“It was just knee-to-knee,” Rea said. “I tried everything I could to keep the ball in front of me. Unfortunately, we hit knee-to-knee.”


He later was hit by a pitch on the elbow, one of four hit batters in the game.


“If you’re wondering if I’m playing tomorrow, the answer is yes,” Rea said.




Mississippi State also knows a thing or two about defense. The Bulldogs, who made numerous highlight-reel plays in the Charlottesville Super Regional and in Omaha, showed their prowess again Monday.


First baseman Wes Rea made a pair of really nice backhand plays and flipped to starter Trevor Fitts in the first and reliever Chad Girodo in the second – although UCLA’s Kevin Kramer appeared safe on replays on the play in the second. And second baseman Brian Pirtle robbed Cody Regis of a hit with a diving play to his left in the sixth. In the outfield, Demarcus Henderson did a nice job on Eric Filia’s double down the left-field line, the kind of ball you often see bobbled or misplayed in the corner, and fired back to the infield to keep runners at second and third.




Visiting teams are now 10-3 at the 2013 College World Series. The Bulldogs will be the visitors Tuesday…MSU’s Brett Pirtle (2 for 4) reached base for the 43rd straight game…only twice in 10 years has the loser of Game 1 of the Championship Series come back to win the final two games and national title (Oregon State in 2006, Fresno State in 2008).