Omaha, Neb. – UCLA moved to within one win of the National title on Monday night, capturing game one of the College World Series Championship Series with a 3-1 victory over Mississippi State. The Bruins won their 10th consecutive game and ninth consecutive postseason game. Junior pitcher Adam Plutko won his 10th game of the season, going six innings and allowing just one run and four hits to improve his career postseason record to 7-0. Sophomore closer David Berg set a new NCAA single-season record with his 24th save of the year.
For the second game in a row, UCLA took the early lead after scraping across a run in the top of the first. With one out, sophomore Kevin Kramer struck out swinging, but reached first when the ball got away from Mississippi State catcher Nick Ammirati. Sophomore Eric Filia doubled in the next at-bat to move Kramer over to third, bringing up junior Pat Valaika. On the first pitch, Valaika laced a single to center, scoring Kramer and giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins got two runners on in both the second and third innings, but were unable to get any across. UCLA would finally get some runs across in the top of the fourth to increase its lead to three, beginning when junior Brenton Allen singled with one out. The next batter was Brian Carroll, who attempted to bunt his way on base, reaching when Ammirati’s throw went wide of first to put runners on first and third with one out. Two batters later, Carroll stole second to put men in scoring position for Filia with two outs. Filia would come through, smacking a single to right to bring home Allen and Carroll to make it 3-0 Bruins.
Plutko made that lead hold up in the early going, setting down the first 10 Mississippi State hitters he faced. In the bottom of the fourth, he ran into some trouble, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Then with a 2-2 count, he hit Wes Rea to load the bases and bring the go-ahead run to the plate in C.T. Bradford. After an eight-pitch at-bat, Bradford drew a walk to score Alex Detz, cutting UCLA’s lead to two. The Bulldogs would get no more though, as Plutko got Trey Porter to fly out to right to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ammirati led off the inning by crushing a ball to right off of Plutko that looked to be extra bases. However, Filia tracked it down and made a terrific leaping grab to rob Ammirati. An error by Plutko and a balk allowed Demarcus Henderson to reach second with two outs in the inning, but Plutko got Detz to line out to Cody Regis at second to once again keep the Bruins ahead.
After a scoreless sixth, Plutko came back out for the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to Trey Porter. Head coach John Savage then went to the bullpen and brought in freshman James Kaprielian. Kaprielian walked Ammirati to put runners on first and second and nobody out, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate again in Henderson. On an 0-2 pitch, Henderson grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that was started by a terrific glove flip to second from Regis, getting two crucial outs in the inning. Kaprielian then battled back from a 3-0 count on Adam Frazier to get him to ground out to Regis at second, ending the threat.
Zack Weiss came in relief in the eighth and got the leadoff batter out before hitting Hunter Renfroe with a pitch, which prompted Savage to summon Berg. The National Stopper of the Year did his job and got Brett Pirtle to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
In the ninth inning, Berg gave up a pair of one-out singles but got Ammirati to fly out to left-center and then induced a comebacker to pinch-hitter Jacob Robson for the final out and for his NCAA record 24th save.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Savage said. “We hung in there. We put up some zeros, some difficult zeros. We dodged some bullets, no doubt about it. But you also have to give credit to our defense. I think our defense was outstanding and turned a couple of double plays. I thought (Shane) Zeile was good behind the plate. It was kind of a Bruin game – a tight game, and at the end of the night we were fortunate to come out of it with the win.”
UCLA (48-17) and Mississippi State (51-19) will play game two of the championship series on Tuesday, June 25 at 5 p.m./7 p.m. CT with UCLA looking to wrap up its first-ever NCAA baseball championship and the 109th NCAA title in UCLA’s history.
Game Notes: David Berg set a new NCAA record with his 24th save of the season, breaking the record set previously by Jack Krawczyk of USC in 1998 and Tyler Roger of Austin Peay in 2013…Berg made his 50th appearance of the season, becoming the first pitcher in NCAA history to record 50 or more appearances in multiple seasons…UCLA has allowed one run or less in five straight postseason games and just seven runs in its last seven games…Brian Carroll stole his 31st and 32nd base tonight, the most in a single-season by a UCLA player since Dave Roberts stole a school-record 45 in 1994…UCLA pitchers have allowed just one run in each of the team’s four CWS games…head coach John Savage is now 8-5 all-time in the College World Series…the Bruins improved to 18-2 when scoring in the first inning and 40-0 when leading after seven innings…Eric Filia is now hitting .424 in the postseason with six RBI and a .459 on-base percentage…Adam Plutko improved to 7-0 with 0.94 ERA in eight postseason starts… Plutko’s 0.94 ERA also ranks as the lowest in UCLA postseason history (min. 12 innings pitched)…UCLA’s pitching staff has posted a 1.32 ERA in this year’s postseason…the Bruins’ staff has also held hitters to a .181 batting average in the CWS.