UCLA has reached the College World Series Finals, beating #1 North Carolina Friday, 4-1.
It’s the second time in program history that UCLA has reached the CWS Finals, the first time being in 2010.
The Bruins did it again with excellent starting and relief pitching, stellar defense and timely offense.
In fact, for the first time in this year's CWS, the Bruins jumped out to an early lead, scoring a run in the second inning when juniors Pat Gallagher and Kevin Williams both singled, and then Gallagher was brought home after a third single by senior Cody Regis. The Bruins then scored another run in the sixth, and then two big runs in the seventh inning to go up 4-0. Pat Valaika, who was 0-9 in the CWS, came through with a two-run double.
UCLA starting pitcher Grant Watson went six innings without giving up a run, and allowing just 4 hits, with three strikeouts. He was helped out of a jam in the fourth inning, putting runners on first and second before the Bruin defense turned a double play to end the inning.
After Watson gave up a lead-off single in the seventh, freshman pitcher James Kaprielian took over in the seventh and did his job, striking out two and getting a fly out. Zach Weiss then pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and the nation’s best closer, David Berg, then took over in the ninth. Berg loaded the bases after allowing two singles and a walk, and then allowed one run on a grounder, force-out to second. Berg then struck out the next batter and then walked the next, loading the bases again. He finished it off by getting a pop out to center for the game’s final out.
UCLA head coach John Savage said. "It was pitching, solid defense, opportunistic offense. I thought we had better at-bats tonight. We used the middle field better. We're capable offensively. They're just as good as any part of our game. We do feel that way. If you look at the scores you won't write it up that way. But there's a lot of faith and trust in those players.”
"We accomplished what we wanted to, but it's on to the next round, and I can't be happy enough and prouder of our team."
It’s significant that UCLA got the win with a start from Watson, not having to go to a second game against North Carolina that would probably have forced Savage to use UCLA’s ace Adam Plutko. Plutko can now rest until Monday, when UCLA (47-17) will face Mississippi State (51-18) in game one of the best-of-three championship series at 7 p.m. CT/5 p.m. PT.
It’s MSU’s first appearance in a CWS final, so both teams are looking for their first-ever NCAA Baseball Championship.