June 24, 2013
UCLA 3, Mississippi State 1
Championship Series Game 1
Slick Defense Spurs UCLA
By Sean Ryan
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
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
“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).