June 8, 2013


Bruins Blank Titans, Returning to Omaha

By Abbey Mastracco

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


FULLERTON, Calif. — Cal State Fullerton is officially in a drought.


No. 8 UCLA eliminated the third-ranked Titans from the postseason Saturday night, with a 3-0 shutout at Goodwin Field to sweep the Fullerton Super Regional and advance to Omaha for the second straight year.


This will be the fourth season in a row that the Titans have missed the trip and it marks the longest College World Series drought in program history.


The heavily-favored Titans squandered opportunities, leaving 11 on base.


“I’m disappointed with how we played offense because we didn’t play offense very good - we didn’t have any,” said Cal State Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook. “It was get a hit or be out. There was no offense in there. We tried to do a few things; it didn’t work today.”


Meanwhile, the Bruins (44-17) have been quietly building a powerhouse in Westwood. This College World Series will be UCLA’s third trip in four years and the Bruins continue to defy odds. Just one season after losing Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, the Bruins made it back to Omaha.


And this season, one season removed from losing nearly all of their top offensive players, the Bruins have made it back to the College World Series.


“Not many people can say they’ve been to Omaha two out of three years they’ve been in college,” said UCLA pitcher Nick Vander Tuig. “It’s been fun and we’re not done yet.”


“I couldn’t be any prouder of our program,” said Bruins head coach John Savage. “Whenever you get to Fullerton and win two games to beat what I think is the best team in the country says a lot about their character, their discipline, their habits – you name it, we did.”


UCLA wasted no time getting on the board. The Bruins put up three runs in the first inning, taking advantage of two costly errors, and the three were all the Bruins needed.


“We were fortunate,” Savage said. “They had two errors and we had a couple base hits and we got three runs.”


Thomas Eshelman took a tough-luck loss for the Titans. The Freshman Pitcher of the Year went the distance for the Titans, giving up no earned runs on six scattered hits while striking out five.


“I thought that guy was unbelievable,” Savage said.


“That, for me, was the best pitching of the whole tournament,” Vanderhook said. “He was more dominant for me than anybody this weekend that I saw.”


After Eshelman retired the first two batters in the first inning, Eric Filia chopped a ball off of the glove of Carlos Lopez to reach first and keep the inning alive.


Lopez, who had just a single error coming into the series, made two that resulted in runs in as many games.


Pat Valaika then sliced a single through the left gap. A diving Richy Pedroza knocked it down with his glove but was unable to make a play. Kevin Williams then loaded the bases when he reached on a third base error.


Pat Gallagher, the Los Angeles Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, came through in the clutch for the Bruins with a double to right center to drive in two. Shane Zeile then followed with a single to score a third run and give the Bruins an early 3-0 lead that they would not relinquish.


“I sort of felt like Eshelman hadn’t been in that situation maybe,” Valaika said. “We just kept battling him and kept trying to put the ball in play and it all worked out.”


All three runs were unearned, and if the freshman pitcher was rattled, he didn’t look it.


“It was kind of hard at first settling down, especially after that first inning,” Eshelman said. “I kind of went back to what I was doing all year and as the game went on, it kind of slowed down.”


Vander Tuig (12-4) earned the win with 6.1 innings of shutout ball. He struck out four and walked none before the vaunted UCLA bullpen came in to relieve him.


It was the first series loss for the Titans, and a bad time for it. The two teams know each other well – Vanderhook is a former UCLA assistant and the two regularly play one another in midweek games. Two fiercely contested baseball games were played, setting the stage for what could potentially be a new rivalry.


“We earned it,” Savage said. “On to Omaha.”