UCLA, Mississippi State head to series finals


OMAHA, Neb. — Pat Valaika’s two-run double gave UCLA some cushion, record-setting closer David Berg survived a rocky ninth inning, and UCLA defeated top-seeded North Carolina 4-1 Friday night to move to the championship round of the College World Series.

The Bruins (47-17) will begin the best-of-three finals Monday against Mississippi State, which eliminated Oregon State with a 4-1 win in the afternoon.

The Tar Heels (59-12) twice loaded the bases in the ninth against Berg but came away with only one run, with the game ending on Landon Lassiter’s flyout to center.

Both starters went six innings, with the Bruins’ Grant Watson (9-3) allowing four hits and Kent Emanuel (11-5) giving up five singles and striking out seven.

UCLA opened the CWS with 2-1 victories over LSU and North Carolina State. The Bruins, with eight total runs, matched 1976 Eastern Michigan for fewest by a team in the metal-bat era that won its first three CWS games.

The Bruins scored single runs in the second and sixth innings and made it 4-0 in the seventh on Valaika’s double.

North Carolina threatened in the fourth and seventh innings but couldn’t push across any runs until Berg, the National Stopper of the Year, came on to start the ninth.

Cody Stubbs and Sky Bolte singled, and Berg walked Michael Russell to load the bases. UCLA coach John Savage made a mound visit after Berg went 1-0 to Mike Zolk, whose groundout scored Stubbs.

Berg struck out Parks Jordan, and the bases were loaded again when he walked Chaz Frank. When Lassiter’s fly landed in Brian Carroll’s glove, the Bruins’ dugout emptied in celebration.

Mississippi St. 4,

Oregon St. 1.

OMAHA, Neb. — Hunter Renfroe hit a three-run homer off the back wall of the left-field bullpen, and Mississippi State advanced to the College World Series finals.

Oregon State (52-13) went 2-2 in its first CWS appearance since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.

Renfroe’s homer off freshman left-hander Andrew Moore (14-2) was only the third in 11 CWS games and put the Bulldogs up 4-0 in the fifth.

Kendall Graveman (7-5) worked the first 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits. Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder finished, with Holder getting the last two outs for his 21st save of the season and school-record 30th of his career.

It’s the sixth straight year a team from the Southeastern Conference has reached the finals.