After sweeping through Regional and Super Regional play, the UCLA Bruins (45-17), making their second straight trip to Omaha, opened their College World Series play on Sunday night against NO.4 national seed LSU (57-10) at TD Ameritrade Park.
The two proceeded to manage a pitchers duel throughout, as both teams managed just five hits each in the game..
"It was quite a game," said UCLA skipper John Savage. "You're talking about Nola and Plutko, really pitching as advertised."
LSU, winners of 6 College world Series, scored the game's first run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Mason Katz connected for his 16th home run of the season.
UCLA responded in the top of the sixth when Brian Carroll reached first on a bunt and advanced to second on a throwing error by LSU catcher Ty Ross. Carroll moved to third on a Kevin Kramer groundout to second. Eric Filia drove a ball into deep left field to sacrifice Carroll home and even the score.
The Bruins continued to play small ball offensively, when in the bottom of the seventh freshman Ty Moore led off the inning with a pinch hit single. Christoph Bono replaced Moore as a pinch runner and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Carroll. With two outs, LSU shortstop Jacoby Jones couldn't handle a hard hit grounder by Filia and the ball rolled into shallow center field, allowing Bono to score.
Savage credited his team's opportunistic approach to the game as the deciding factor in the game.
"Good things happen when you hit the ball hard and the bunt was fortunate," said Savage. "It was a good drag. Carroll can run and as we all know speed creates pressure and I think there was a little pressure there and he happened to throw the ball away. So opportunistic would be the word. That one inning we got an error. We got a ground ball. We got a sac fly. Nola threw five pitches that inning and we got a run."
Plutko completed seven innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run, while striking out two. He forced the Tigers into 13 flyouts and 6 groundouts during his work.
"We knew how he'd pitch us, and he did a lot of that," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "He threw a lot more sliders than we expected, quite frankly, but we knew he'd try to pitch up in the zone, and we didn't lay off enough of them. We hit too many easy fly ball outs."
Freshman reliever James Kaprielian took the mound for the Bruins in the bottom of the eighth and made quick work of the LSU batters, needing just seven pitches to close the inning.
UCLA head coach John Savage chose to use David Berg (7-0), who entered the contest with a 0.88 ERA, to close the game. LSU's lead off hitter, Mason Katz reached first base on a throwing error, but the threat was short lived as the Bruins turned a double play on Katz and Raph Rhymes. With two out, Christian Ibarra drew a walk and pinch-hitter Tyler Moore singled up the middle to give LSU an opportunity to tie or win the game, but a pop up to shallow right field by Jones ended the Tiger threat.
"I mean, if you look at it I think we've been kind of flying under the radar all year long," said Plutko. "We always talk about we want to play our game and we don't play the opponent, we play our game. A team as good as LSU, if we try and compete with them, I think we get out of our game plan and we just kept stringing quality at-bats, one right after the other, one right after the other. Finally, we just we were lucky enough to break them down a bit and I think that was the difference in the ballgame."
Plutko (9-3) received the win, improving to 6-0 all-time in postseason play, and Berg picked up his 23rd save on the season.
"That was a grind," said Savage. "You're talking about a crowd that was certainly in the favor of LSU and we anticipated that and I think at the end of the day it was our type of game and fortunately we came out. It's game one of the World Series, so there's no celebration."
UCLA will face North Carolina State on Tuesday at 5:00 pm (PT). Like Sunday night, the Bruins will be the visiting team against the Wolfpack.