UCLA claims first game of CWS finals at Omaha
Indians draftee Plutko stifles Mississippi State to put Bruins one win from title
OMAHA, Neb. -- UCLA coach John Savage said Sunday it took him about 30 games to grow accustomed to his team's nerve-wracking style of play.
Now Savage and the Bruins are one win away from making all those close games worth it.
The Bruins once again were solid, methodical and nail-biting on Monday night, as they beat Mississippi State, 3-1, in Game 1 of the College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park.
A victory Tuesday in Game 2 of the best-of-three series at 8 p.m. ET would give the Bruins their first national championship.
"It was kind of a Bruin game," Savage said. "And at the end of the night we were fortunate to come out of it with the win."
Right-hander Adam Plutko -- the Indians' 11th-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft -- delivered another fine outing, the Bruins took advantage of two Mississippi State miscues and UCLA's defense and bullpen were clutch in the victory.
UCLA got on the board in the first when the game's second batter, Kevin Kramer, reached on a strikeout after swinging at Bulldogs righty Trevor Fitts' wild pitch in the dirt. Right fielder Eric Filia doubled and shortstop Pat Valaika followed with a single to plate Kramer.
The Bruins added two in the fourth when, with left fielder Brenton Allen (20th, Nationals) on first, center fielder Brian Carroll bunted. Bulldogs catcher Nick Ammirati's throw to first got by Wes Rea -- whom Carroll collided with in a scary scene that ended with both players being OK -- to put runners at the corners. Carroll swiped second before Filia lined a two-out, two-run single to right.
"Getting that first run in the first inning really set the tone for our offense," said Valaika, the Rockies' ninth-round pick. "It's such a great pitching staff and defense. We don't really have to score that many runs."
With the offense's job done, UCLA's defense and bullpen closed the Bruins' victory.
Sophomore closer Dave Berg allowed consecutive two-out singles in the bottom of the ninth but induced a flyout and comebacker to end the game.
Berg's outing followed an impressive double play in the seventh when Mississippi State's Demarcus Henderson hit a bouncer up the middle that was fielded by second baseman Cody Regis. Regis flipped the ball to Valaika from his glove as the Bruins eventually escaped the inning unscathed.
A double play also erased a hit batter in the eighth, while Filia made the play of the game in the fifth with a leaping catch at the right-field warning track to rob Ammirati of extra bases.
"Our defense has been our key to our success in our postseason run," Savage said. "I think any pitcher in our program will tell you that we rely on our defense and tonight I think our bullpen did a good job of doing that."
That all secured the victory for Plutko, who retired the first 10 batters before facing his lone jam in the fourth. Mississippi State third baseman Adam Detz and second baseman Brett Pirtle each singled, giving the Bulldogs two on with two out. Plutko then hit Rea to load the bases before issuing issuing a two-out walk to C.T. Bradford to score Detz.
Trey Porter to lined out to right to end Mississippi State's threat and Plutko -- who tossed 30 pitches in the fourth -- remained in the game until a leadoff single in the seventh. The junior righty allowed that lone run on four hits and walked one and struck out two.
"He was elevating, and we were just doing so much at the plate," Pirtle said. "He didn't have anything overpowering. He was leaving it up and we just did too much."
Mississippi State also got a great performance from left-hander Chad Girodo (ninth, Blue Jays). The Bulldogs, true to form, went to their bullpen early -- bringing in Girodo mid-count with one on and one out in the second. He got out of the jam and worked 7 2/3 innings, allowing two unearned runs on three hits while striking out nine.
"Gosh, it doesn't happen a lot when you punch out 12 guys and your guys strike out twice," Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. "They made the most of their opportunities."