OMAHA -- UCLA baseball, welcome to the crowd.
UCLA had won plenty of national championships – 108 in the NCAA, 129 overall – but never one in baseball.
Until Tuesday, when the Bruins beat Mississippi State, 8-0, to complete a sweep of five games at the College World Series.
It was UCLA’s third CWS appearance in four years, and it’s clear the Bruins have mastered the new era in college baseball.
Fifteen years ago, there were 62 home runs hit by the final eight teams in the NCAA tournament. This year, there were three.
Pitching and defense rules. And UCLA showed plenty of both.
Tuesday’s starter, Nick Vander Tuig, scattered five hits and one walk over eight innings to improve his record to 14-4. In five CWS games, UCLA pitchers had an earned-run average of 0.80, a record for the aluminum bat era.
UCLA starters combined to pitch 34 innings, giving up 21 hits, five walks and only three earned runs. In support, the defense made only three errors.
On offense, UCLA didn’t let any balls go over the fence – heck, only a few even hit the outfield grass on the fly – but the Bruins know how to turn up the heat on a defense until it wilts. Mississippi State’s not only wilted, it dried up and crumbled, contributing three errors to UCLA’s cause.
Leadoff batter Brian Carroll scored twice without hitting the ball after getting hit with a pitch and after drawing a walk. Eric Filia, batting third in the order, had five runs batted in -- the first on a long sacrifice fly, the second on a sacrifice bunt, the third on a garden-variety bouncer up the middle, and the last two on a single to right field.
Like Filia, UCLA built momentum, starting with small ball but finishing with 12 hits.
There were also three Bruins hit by pitches, two walks and four sacrifices. There were even two extra-base hit by the Bruins, which gave them five in five CWS games.
No matter. It was a winning equation.
The four sacrifices tied a CWS finals record. The Bruins had 12 in their five games in Omaha, tying a record established in 1962.
So it went for UCLA, and so it is likely to continue to go just as long as that other L.A. Pac-12 Conference school doesn’t coax Coach John Savage across town. (Yes, USC is looking for a baseball coach, and has been waiting to speak to Savage, a former Trojans pitching coach.)
UCLA took only four innings to establish its scoring high for this year’s CWS. The Bruins scored once in the first and twice in each the third and fourth innings.
In the first inning, Carroll was hit by a pitch and advanced to third base when Kevin Kramer’s bunt was bobbled by pitcher Luis Pollorena, whose rushed throw bounced off the glove of first baseman Wes Rea. Filia’s drive to right field drove in Carroll.
In the third, Carroll walked and Kramer singled him to third with one out. Filia then laid down a bunt to drive in Carroll and move Kramer to second. A single to right field by Pat Valaika drove in Kramer.
In the fourth, Kevin Williams was hit by a pitch leading off the inning, was sacrificed to second and scored on a single by Cody Regis. A double to right field by Brenton Allen drove in Regis.
UCLA tacked on an insurance run in the sixth on an infield single by Regis, a sacrifice bunt by Allen – yes, even coming off a run-scoring double and leading 5-0, he was still moving along a runner – and a run-scoring single up the middle by Filia.
Filia, a sophomore from Huntington Beach, also had a two-run single in the eighth inning.
The Bruins' victory gave the Pac-12 consecutive national championships for the first time since Oregon State won in 2006 and 2007.
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