Published June 25, 2013
| Sports Network
Omaha, NE – Adam Plutko pitched into the seventh inning and Eric Filia had a two-run single to boost UCLA to a 3-1 win over Mississippi State in the opener of the College World Series finals Monday night.
Pat Valaika drove in the other run for the Bruins (48-17), who are trying for their first NCAA baseball title in program history.
The Bulldogs (51-19), in the CWS finals for the first time, entered Monday without a single national championship in a team sport. UCLA has a record 108 team titles.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Tuesday night.
UCLA is appearing in its second College World Series Finals in the last four years. The Bruins lost to South Carolina in 2010.
Plutko (10-3), a junior right-hander, allowed four hits and a run over six- plus frames. James Kaprielian and Zack Weiss combined to throw 1 1/3 hitless frames. David Berg recorded the final five outs for his 24th save of the year to set a new NCAA record. That eclipses the old mark set by Jack Krawczyk of USC in 1998 and Tyler Roger of Austin Peay in 2013.
"At this point it doesn't really matter. Records are meant to be broken, but titles are what matter," Berg said. "So if we all win a national championship, I'll enjoy that. But right now I don't think about it at all."
Trevor Fitts (0-1) was lifted after only 1 1/3 innings in the start. Chad Girodo pitched the final 7 2/3 innings and had nine strikeouts for the Bulldogs.
Fitts fanned three batters in the first inning, but Kevin Kramer reached safely on a wild pitch after striking out. Following Filia's double to left, Kramer scored on Valaika's line single up the middle.
The Bulldogs kept it a one-run deficit when first baseman Wes Rea made a diving stop and flipped to Fitts for the final out of the opening frame.
Fitts was pulled from the game with one out in the second inning. Mississippi State caught a break later in the frame when Kramer was called out at first on a close play despite replays showing Girodo got to the bag late.
UCLA put two runners on base in the third, but Shane Zeile grounded out to end the threat.
The Bruins took advantage of an error in the fourth inning to expand their lead to 3-0. Brenton Allen singled to left with one out and Brian Carroll put down a sacrifice bunt. Catcher Nick Ammirati threw low to first base. Rea and Carroll knocked knees together and the ball trickled into foul territory.
With men on first and third, Kramer struck out before Carroll stole second. On a 3-2 pitch, Filia hit a soft liner to right field to drive in both runners, but he was caught in a rundown to end the inning.
MSU's first hit came on a ground ball up the middle off the bat of Alex Detz with one out in the fourth inning. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with another single and a hit batsman before C.T. Bradford walked with two outs on a 3-2 pitch that was high to force in a run. Trey Porter then lined out to right field.
Filia made a running catch in the right field corner on a ball hit by Ammirati to start the bottom of the fifth, but Detz lined out to second to leave a runner in scoring position.
The Bulldogs wasted a golden opportunity in the seventh. Porter singled and was removed from the game for a pinch-runner. Kaprielian relieved Plutko, but walked Ammirati. Demarcus Henderson then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and Adam Frazier grounded to out to cap the inning.
Berg came in from the UCLA bullpen to induce a double play in the eighth and got out of a jam after putting two men on base in the ninth. Ammirati flied out and pinch-hitter Jacob Robson grounded out to end the game.
"You have to make your luck in this game," MSU coach John Cohen said. "They made the most of their opportunities. Sometimes you get the pitch you want and everything doesn't happen for you. We had sequences and we had opportunities. We still have a great chance to come back and win the series."
The Bruins are 9-0 in the postseason, the longest postseason winning streak in school history. The Bruins have outscored their opponents by a 36-14 margin in the postseason.