June 25, 2013

Game 2 Notes

Parents, Family Help Mold Head Coach John Savage

Photo Gallery by Craig Jackson


Bruins Add Baseball Crown to Title Trove

UCLA claims first national title in baseball


By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball

(photo by Sean Ryan)


OMAHA, Neb. – The first day of offseason weightlifting, UCLA baseball players gathered in front of a board in the weight room that displays the 108 NCAA national titles the Bruins have won in various sports.


Baseball was nowhere to be found. A message was sent to the baseball Bruins right then and there.


“We’ve got to get our name on that board,” UCLA pitcher Nick Vander Tuig said.


The Bruins did just that Tuesday night on college baseball’s grandest stage.


Vander Tuig turned in eight scoreless innings, and UCLA, led by Eric Filia’s five RBI, methodically beat down Mississippi State 8-0 as the Bruins claimed their first national title in baseball at the College World Series before a record-crowd of 27,127 at TD Ameritrade Park.


UCLA (49-17) swept the Bulldogs (51-20) in the best-of-three Championship Series, adding to the school’s impressive national championship haul and capping a 10-0 postseason run. Along the way, the Bruins swept through San Diego State, Cal Poly and San Diego in the Los Angeles Regional, swept No. 3 Cal State Fullerton in the Super Regionals and beat No. 1 LSU, No. 8 NC State, No. 4 North Carolina and No. 13 Mississippi State.


“At the end of the day, I think we earned the right to be called national champions,” Bruins coach John Savage said on the field moments after his squad was presented the national championship trophy.


Vander Tuig (14-4) did what he and fellow starters Adam Plutko, the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and Grant Watson have done their entire stay in Omaha: consistently put up zeroes. In five games in Omaha, Bruins starters worked 34 innings with 21 hits and three earned runs.


Vander Tuig, a junior righthander who had Tommy John surgery his senior year in high school, was brilliant, allowing five hits and one walk and striking out six in mystifying a Bulldogs team that had been shut out only once all season. In 15 College World Series innings, he allowed nine hits and one earned run with 12 strikeouts.


In all, the Bruins left cavernous TD Ameritrade Park with a 0.80 ERA in five wins.


“They did a good job changing speeds and getting them up and down in the zone, and we weren’t disciplined at the plate,” Bulldogs shortstop Adam Frazier said. “Hats off to them for getting the job done and winning two games for a national championship.”


UCLA’s oft-maligned but opportunistic offense, which finished the season with a .247 average after hitting .227 here, made things easy for Vander Tuig.


Brian Carroll was hit by a pitch to open the game, and Kevin Kramer’s sacrifice bunt was bobbled by starter Luis Pollorena (6-4) before his throw was mishandled by first baseman Wes Rea, allowing Carroll to scurry to third. Filia, who had two RBI in Game 1 of the title series, plated Carroll with a sacrifice fly for the first of his five RBI.


UCLA then added two more in the third when Filia’s safety squeeze with one out scored Carroll, and Pat Valaika followed with a RBI single to score Kramer.


In the fifth, Kevin Williams was hit by a pitch, moved up on a sacrifice bunt and came home on Cody Regis’ bouncer up the middle for a 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, Kramer (2 for 2) added a sacrifice fly to score Regis (2 for 4, 2 runs). Filia added an RBI single in the sixth inning and a two-run single in the eighth as UCLA matched its run output from its first three wins in Omaha – it marked the first time since May 12 that the Bruins had scored eight or more runs.


“It’s a collective effort,” Plutko said on the TD Ameritrade Park turf. “It was never about one superstar. It was about all of us.”


Added Carroll, who scored three runs: “We have a saying: It’s not the best team, it’s the team that plays the best.”


Over two games, Mississippi State couldn’t string anything together, scoring one run against UCLA. Like the Bruins, the Bulldogs won on the road in the Super Regionals (Virginia) and went unbeaten in Omaha (with two wins over Oregon State and one over Indiana) to reach the title series.


“Five years ago, we inherited a club that won 23 ballgames,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. “They climbed all the way to the top, and we didn’t finish the deal. And that’s disappointing. But certainly I’m proud of my players.”


UCLA was in a similar position in 2010, reaching the championship series, only to fall in two games to South Carolina in the final College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.


And now, they leave with that elusive national title. A title that will be celebrated along with the other 108.


“They did it on the field,” Savage said. “I don’t think any of the experts thought we would be here at this stage, and we did it the right way. We played baseball. We played good baseball.”