Scoreboard at Jackie Robinson Stadium for UCLA vs. SDSU in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional, Credit: Jeff Poirier
The 2013 NCAA Baseball Championship started out well for UCLA, as the Bruins opened their postseason with a 5-3 win over San Diego State in the Los Angeles Regional. Earlier in the day, Cal Poly clobbered San Diego and earned a spot in the winners’ game, setting up the UCLA vs. SDSU showdown to determine the Mustangs’ next opponent.
Junior All-Pac-12 starter Adam Plutko took the bump for the Bruins, locking up the win after a two-run, six-hit outing to improve to 8-3 this year. The 6’3″ righty gave up plenty of contact, but most of the big blasts ended up being Aztecs left on base (save for one solo homer). San Diego State left eight men on base, and struck out eight times—that kind of offense won’t win many games in the postseason.
But you have to credit Plutko and the UCLA bullpen too. Tonight was another example of how the Bruins pitch a successful bend-but-don’t-break style. As per usual, sophomore closer and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year David Berg came on for the save, which he secured despite allowing a run on two hits. He still managed to strike out the side, including a called strike three on a sick slider to end the game.
Berg has been astounding for the Bruins this season, and he continued that against SDSU, earning his 19th save of the year. That number is good for a new school record, breaking his own marks set over the past few weeks. If Berg can keep up his steadfast closing efforts, UCLA will always have that ninth-inning safety net to fall back on. That’s an asset that can’t be overstated.
Offensively, the Bruins had a hitting night that wasn’t seen much throughout the year. They combined for 12 hits, including at least one for eight of the nine starters. And even though the run total was just five, hitting coach Rex Peters has to be pleased with only four strikeouts.
Junior 1B Pat Gallagher swung the big stick tonight, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. His performance was pivotal given the struggles at the top of the order today (top two hitters went 1-6 combined). If he can be an unexpected source of offense, it will provide a nice boost to the Bruins’ attack.
This was an important win for UCLA, but I didn’t have to tell you that. Sitting at 1-0, the Bruins will prepare to take on Cal Poly tomorrow, with the winner taking a stranglehold on the Regional. The Mustangs won more convincingly than the host team today, so the game tomorrow could be an extremely tough one for UCLA.
For a complete preview of Cal Poly, click here. First pitch is slated for 6 PM PST at Jackie Robinson Stadium, and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.