OMAHA, Neb. – UCLA sophomore right-hander Adam Plutko traveled to Omaha for the 2010 College World Series, but he was just a spectator at Rosenblatt Stadium, rooting for his former high school teammate Cody Regis.
The Bruins advanced all the way to the championship series two years ago, eventually falling to South Carolina in two games, but the experience stuck with Plutko.
“It was just so phenomenal being out there,” Plutko said after UCLA’s first Super Regional game against TCU. “It’s the only place on earth that’s like that. You can’t find that anywhere else.”
Fast-forward two years later and UCLA is back in Omaha, opening the CWS against Stony Brook on Friday afternoon. This time around, Plutko wasn’t sitting in the stands — he was the Bruins’ starting pitcher.
Plutko made the most of his time to shine in Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park, sparking the Bruins to a 9-1 victory and stymying the hot-hitting Seawolves to just five hits in the game – their lowest output since March 25.
Stony Brook, which was fourth nationally in runs scored, was held to one run against UCLA, its lowest total since scoring one run against Binghamton on May 5.
The native of Glendora, Calif., struck out seven batters in 7.0 innings, and pitched out of jams in the second and fifth innings.
“I thought Adam was himself throughout the game,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “He pitched out of some problems with runners on second and third. They didn’t get any.”
“I think what he did was just stuck with his routine,” Stony Brook centerfielder Travis Jankowski said. “He pounded the strike zone and threw fastballs for the most part. He tried to get us to chase, and that was his main pitch. Fastball up in the zone, and we chased it, it was there all day.”
Stony Brook has not been Plutko’s only victim in the NCAA postseason. He tossed a complete-game 3-0 shutout against Creighton to open the NCAA Los Angeles Regional, and then held TCU to two runs in a seven-inning performance as the Bruins won 6-2 in Super Regional action. Plutko has compiled a 3-0 mark and 1.28 ERA in three postseason appearances this season, surrendering just three runs on 14 hits, while striking out 21 batters.
“I think a lot of it has to do with deception in my delivery I’m a fast ball pitcher, and I don’t shy away from that,” Plutko said. “It’s a lot easier to get outs with the ball in the air than with the ball on the ground. A lot more things can happen I think deception has a large key in that.”
Friday’s victory marked his fourth career win in the NCAA tournament, matching former UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer as the only other Bruin to accomplish the feat.
“He attacked the zone and was throwing strikes early,” Stony Brook senior catcher Pat Cantwell said. “That’s always effective. We were behind in the count most of the day. We had a scouting report on him, and it was pretty on. He was just better than us today. He beat us to the spots, and I don’t know, it just didn’t go our way today.”
“Plutko was very, very tough and so you’re going to have to take advantage of men in scoring position,” Stony Brook head coach Matt Senk said. “Both innings, we had second and third with less than two outs, and it was there for us. He did a good job, but we needed to do a better job.”
Plutko won his seventh consecutive decision, improving to 12-3 on the season, and lowering his season ERA to 2.48.
“Adam battled,” Savage said. “He’s up to 112 pitches. Adam has not thrown a lot of pitches in his starts this is season, so he’s got a lot of gas in the tank. His pitch count has been really low all season long. I told him, you’ve got some left, and he did in the 7th. It was a big zero.”