UCLA tops MSU, claims national title
OMAHA, Neb. — UCLA finally can add baseball to its long list of national championships.
The Bruins relied on pitching and defense to get them in position to win a title, and Tuesday night the offense finally showed up. Their 8-0 victory over Mississippi State gave them a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals.
“I don’t think any of the experts thought we’d be here at this stage, and we did it the right way,” coach John Savage said. “We pitched, we defended, we had quality offense, opportunistic offense for sure, and at the end of the day we outlasted everybody.”
Eric Filia drove in a career-high five runs, Nick Vander Tuig limited Mississippi State to five hits in eight innings, and UCLA (49-17) increased its NCAA-record number of national championships in team sports to 109.
“They had a great year,” Savage said of his players, “and it was one of those situations where it was our time.”
Adam Plutko, the Bruins’ No. 1 starter, was chosen the CWS Most Outstanding Player. He beat LSU in the Bruins’ first game and was the winner in Game 1 of the finals. He allowed two runs in 13 innings.
Vander Tuig held off the Bulldogs (51-20) when they threatened in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings and recorded his fourth win in the NCAA tournament. Vander Tuig (14-4) struck out six and walked one. David Berg pitched the ninth.
Filia produced runs with a sacrifice fly, squeeze bunt and two base hits as the Bruins collected 12 hits and scored their most runs in 18 games.
“To beat us like they did today, and to do what they did to our pitching staff, which I think is one of the best in the nation,” Bulldogs right fielder Hunter Renfroe said, “we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. We didn’t put up run support like we should have.”
Bulldogs starter Luis Pollorena (6-4) lasted one inning. Jonathan Holder, the Bulldogs’ closer, came on with one out in the fourth inning and went the rest of the way.
UCLA allowed four runs in five games to set a CWS record for fewest in the metal-bat era that started in 1974.
The Bruins’ .227 batting average in the CWS also was the lowest since teams went away from wood bats. The Bruins’ 19 runs in five games were the fewest by a champion since the CWS went to eight teams in 1950.
After Arizona’s title last year, the Pac-12 has now won two straight and has 17 in all in baseball, most of any conference.
Mississippi State was playing for its first national title in a team sport and was the sixth straight Southeastern Conference team to make it to the finals.
“What we did was knock on the door, and UCLA has knocked on the door before and they knocked down the door, and we didn’t do that,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. “It bothered me we didn’t play well the last two days. We played 15 postseason games and didn’t play well in two of them.”
Vander Tuig, who won his fourth straight postseason start, gave up just one earned run in 21 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
“I think back on all the experience I’ve had in three years and how it really helped me,” Vander Tuig said. “I also think of just how many wins this team has had and the opportunities we’ve had. It’s what has gotten me to where I am, trying to keep things simple, making pitches and letting my defense work.”
The Bruins won their first title in their third CWS appearance in four years and fifth all-time. They had made it to the finals in 2010 and were swept by South Carolina. Last year they went 1-2 in Omaha.
This season they finished third in the Pac-12, behind Oregon State and Oregon, and then got hot in the postseason.
They made magic with an offense that started Tuesday 264th out of 296 teams in batting (.247) and 215th in scoring (4.7 runs per game), but among the national leaders in sacrifices, walks and hit batsmen.
UCLA won three straight at home in regionals and went on the road to upset No. 5 national seed Cal State Fullerton in a two-game super regional.
Once the Bruins got to Omaha, they made themselves at home in spacious TD Ameritrade Park. UCLA produced just enough offense to support its superb pitching and defense in bracket play, and again in Game 1 of the finals.
The pitching and defense showed up again in Game 2, and this time so did the offense.
“We’ve been capable all season long,” Savage said. “We have good players. I said that all along. They started to believe, and they used the whole field.”