UCLA believes it is a worthy national champion, the best college baseball team in the nation.
But Coach John Savage wasn’t thinking that way a couple of weeks ago, when the Bruins were preparing to meet Cal State Fullerton in a best-of-three-games NCAA Super Regional at Fullerton’s Goodwin Field.
He thought Fullerton might be better. In fact, he thought the Big West Conference champion Titans just might have been the best team in the country.
“It was a tough road,” Savage said Tuesday night at a post-game news conference after UCLA finished a five-game College World Series sweep with an 8-0 rout of Mississippi State. “We had a difficult Pac-12 conference. We finished third behind Oregon and Oregon State, two very good teams. We had a very difficult regional with Cal Poly, [University of] San Diego and San Diego State.
“Then we went to Fullerton, who I thought was the best team in the country, and to our credit we played 'em and we played 'em tough. We came out of that with two wins.”
That, Savage said, was “an indicator” – and a clue of what was to come.
“I think a lot of people saw that and knew how difficult that was,” Savage said. “There were, I think, telling signs that this team was going to be pretty tough to beat.”
Make that really, really tough to beat. In five games at Omaha, UCLA never allowed more than one run in a game and outscored opponents, 19-4.
The difference, according to Savage – and are you paying attention Allen Iverson? – was … practice.
“For us to play well in the games you have to do it in practice,” Savage said, “and you have to do it in front of the coaches. We work hard, conditioning, weights, practice. We got better; we got better in this tournament.
“… I can't say enough about the guys … They've earned it, and people didn't believe in them. People didn't think they were the best team. And I don't know any reason why you could think that.”
Well, at least not any more.
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