UCLA holds off LSU rally - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm / Updated at 5:45 pm
UCLA holds off LSU rally
Play of the game: LSU looked as if it had worked out of another tight spot in the eighth inning when Aaron Nola got Eric Filia to hit a potential inning-ending grounder to shortstop Alex Bregman. The freshman couldn't come up with the ball, allowing it to kick off his glove for an error that allowed pinch-runner Christoph Bono to score the winning run.

Star of the game: Adam Plutko turned in another workhorse start for the Bruins as he pitched seven innings to pick up his ninth win of the season. The junior right-hander made just one big mistake in allowing a fourth-inning home run to Mason Katz. Plutko gave up four hits, struck out two and walked two in his 101-pitch performance.

Key decision: LSU coach Paul Mainieri “came up snake eyes” with his decision to take off the sacrifice sign for Raph Rhymes after Katz led off the ninth inning by reaching first base on an error. Rhymes showed bunt on David Berg's first two pitches, but Mainieri said he then gambled in having Rhymes swing away. The LSU senior hit the ball hard but at third baseman Kevin Kramer, who started a double play. LSU's next two batters reached before Berg got the last out.

Quirky moment: You won't see this in the pros. With the game on the line in the ninth inning, UCLA unsuccessfully tried a trick play when it had Berg try to execute a fake pickoff play. Berg faked throwing to second in an attempt to catch pinch-runner Jared Foster napping. Berg's teammates provided some theatrics to try to sell the farce, but Foster didn't bite, staying at second after he dove back to the base.

Defining moment:
Berg showed why he's college baseball's stopper of the year. After Rhymes hit into the double play, the side-arming sophomore walked a batter and gave up a single. He then threw three straight balls to Jones before coming back to get the LSU hitter to sky a 3-2 pitch to right field.

They said it: “I thought we ran it pretty well. He was a smart runner and he stayed on the bag. It was a good play by him. I thought we executed well. It just didn't work that time.'' — Berg, on the fake pickoff play in the ninth inning.

Our take: UCLA's offense won't wow you, but the Bruins are solid on the mound and in the field. They believe they can make a championship run in spite of some offensive warts.

The grinding sound Sunday night at TD Ameritrade Park came from a UCLA team that knows what it must do to win.

Pitch, play defense and take advantage of any break is the formula the Bruins used to get to the College World Series. The Bruins know that if they follow that script, as they did to perfection in a 2-1 win over Louisiana State, they'll have a chance for a lengthy stay in town.

Star reliever David Berg, who had to survive a white-knuckle ninth inning before finishing off the win, summed up his team in describing his own performance.

“I didn't have to look pretty,'' he said. “But it was good enough to get the job done.''

UCLA combined a pair of unearned runs, the standout pitching of Adam Plutko and James Kaprielian, and Berg's ninth-inning tightrope act to pull out the Bracket Two victory before 26,344 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.

The victory advanced UCLA (45-17) into a Tuesday night winners game against North Carolina State, which banged around national No. 1 seed North Carolina in posting an 8-1 win in Sunday's first game.

LSU, the national No. 4 seed, dropped into a Tuesday elimination game against North Carolina.

“I thought it would take two or three runs to win this game, and we were only able to scratch across one,'' said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, whose team dropped to 57-10. “So they win and we lose.

“We'll just have to regroup, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and get ready for North Carolina.''

The Tigers, playing in front of a pro-LSU crowd, got their only run in the fourth inning on Mason Katz's homer off Plutko. UCLA tied it in the sixth with an unearned run off Aaron Nola, then handed the LSU ace his first loss after 12 wins by scoring another unearned run in the eighth.

Nola, who gave up five hits in eight innings, has worked 24 innings in three NCAA tournament games without giving up an earned run. Errors have allowed opponents to score seven times against him in those games.

“I battled as hard as I could until the last pitch,'' Nola said. “Unfortunately, we booted a couple of balls around. We just have to forget about that.''

UCLA came into the highly anticipated matchup hitting .251. UCLA coach John Savage likes to joke that his offense won't spook any opponent, but the Bruins were at their opportunistic best against the Tigers.

UCLA got its leadoff man on base in the last six innings. The Bruins managed to tie the game in the sixth when Brian Carroll bunted for a single and made it to second on catcher Ty Ross' throwing error. A groundout and Eric Filia's sacrifice fly made it 1-1.

The Bruins used another LSU error on Filia's hard-hit, two-out grounder to Alex Bregman to score the winning run. The Tigers' shortstop couldn't come up with the ball, and pinch-runner Christoph Bono raced home from second.

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“Our game is not the home run,'' Filia said. “We play small ball. This field plays to our advantage. We don't try to get too big.

“We use the middle of the field. That was really our approach against Nola. We just kept grinding him and grinding him, and I think we wore him out towards the end.''

Plutko, an 11th-round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians, scattered four hits, struck out two and walked two in improving to 9-3. He gave up Katz's 16th homer to fall behind in the fourth and had to endure a couple of shaky moments when Christian Ibarra hit two fly balls to the warning track in left field.

“I knew both of those were close,'' Plutko said. “I thought I jammed him enough, though, to keep it in the ballpark. He took some great at-bats all night long.''

Kaprielian took over after UCLA pushed across the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, pitching a perfect inning and handing the game over to Berg, college baseball's stopper of the year.

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He had to survive some ninth-inning drama before closing out his 22nd save of the season. Katz reached first on a throwing error to open the inning, but Berg got Raph Rhymes to hit into a double play.

Ibarra then coaxed a walk from Berg and pinch-hitter Tyler Moore followed with a single. Berg's first three pitches to JaCoby Jones were balls, but he came back with two strikes before getting Jones to fly out to right field.

Savage said one of UCLA's strengths is that it believes in itself and rarely strays from what it knows it must do to win.

“I think at the end of the day,'' Savage said, “it was our type of game.''

Pitch, play defense and make the most of any opportunity.

“We've been fortunate,'' Savage said. “But good teams create their own breaks a lot of times.''

Contact the writer:

402-679-2298, stevepivovar@hotmail.com, twitter.com/PivOWH

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar

stevepivovar@hotmail.com    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

Friday, June 14
Opening Celebration

Saturday, June 15
Game 1: Mississippi State 5, Oregon State 4
Game 2: Indiana 2, Louisville 0

Sunday, June 16
Game 3: N.C. State 8, North Carolina 1
Game 4: UCLA 2, Louisiana State 1

Monday, June 17
Game 5: Oregon State 11, Louisville 4
Game 6: Mississippi State 5, Indiana 4

Tuesday, June 18
Game 7: North Carolina 4, LSU 2
Game 8: UCLA 2, N.C. State 1

Wednesday, June 19
Game 9: Oregon State 1, Indiana 0

Thursday, June 20
Game 10: North Carolina 7, N.C. State 0

Friday, June 21
Game 11: Mississippi State 4, Oregon State 1
Game 12: UCLA 4, North Carolina 1

Championship Series

Monday, June 24
Finals Game 1: UCLA 3, Mississippi State 1

Tuesday, June 25
Finals Game 2: UCLA 8, Mississippi State 0
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