UCLA Makes Astounding World Series Debut
The UCLA baseball team was good enough to qualify for the 67th College World Series in Omaha this week.
But among the eight participants the Bruins weren’t highly regarded. How could they be with a .250 team batting average, one of the lowest in the NCAA?
As of this writing on our Wednesday deadline it’s unknown what will happen by the end of the week. But if UCLA was to continue its astounding beginning that would be quite a story.
You see, UCLA won its first two games by the score of 2-1, beating favored LSU, then North Carolina State.
The announcers on ESPN’s telecast were saying “UCLA lulls you to sleep” and also “there’s not much going on and suddenly you’re about to lose.”
The Bruins aren’t the first team in history to succeed with excellent pitching and defense, combined with a small ball mentality of moving runners along steadily and capitalizing on opportunities.
But it isn’t often seen at the College World Series, where so many thrilling games have been played over the years, complete with dramatic home runs.
But it’s a big ballpark and this year long clouts haven’t been prevelant. North Carolina State’s few attempts resulted in fly balls that were caught.
UCLA’s Adam Plutko was the winner against LSU and Nick Vander Tuig followed with a strong outing against North Carolina State. David Berg closed out both games, which wasn’t a surprise since he’s been voted Closer of the Year in college baseball.
Vander Tuig had pitched a 3-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton a week earlier, enabling the Bruins to win the Super Regional and reach their third World Series in the last four years.
How can UCLA win the way it is winning? Coach John Savage says he recruits players who can succeed in a big ballpark, specifically the one in Omaha.
Savage is in his ninth year in Westwood and UCLA has passed USC, which was dominant for a long time when Rod Dedeaux was the coach.
While UCLA was playing in this World Series, its star pitcher of a few years ago, Gerrit Cole, was making his major league debut. The former No. 1 pick in the baseball draft, pitched the Pittsburgh Pirates to a victory over the Dodgers.
In recent years I took an interest in UCLA baseball because former Santa Monica High star Cody Decker played there. And then when I went to see Decker, Bruin shortstop Brandon Crawford caught my eye. Crawford is now doing well with the champion San Francisco Giants.
The College World Series is played the same week as the NBA Finals, so a lot of people probably watched the basketball. But when the remarkable Game 6 ended Tuesday night some viewers switched to the UCLA baseball game.
They saw the ending of the Bruins’ upset win. After two games several of the favored teams were on the brink of elimination but UCLA was undefeated.