Worth the sacrifice
Players use small ball to propel UCLA to first NCAA title
OMAHA, Neb. -- Efficiency is a term most commonly used in the business world, but for UCLA, a team that is often described as business-like, it’s a term that defined its first CWS championship.
Consider the following: In Tuesday night’s clincher, a 8-0 victory against Mississippi State at TD Ameritrade Park, the Bruins had four sacrifice bunts, a single-game CWS record. That ran their CWS sacrifice bunt total to 12, the most for a team since Santa Clara matched the feat in 1962.
The Bruins spread the offense they got Tuesday, as well, getting a dozen hits from nine different players. Eric Filia drove in a total of five runs. The first two, in the first and third innings, came via sacrifices. He added an RBI single in the sixth and a two-RBI single in the eighth that put it away for the Bruins.
“We just stayed with our approach,” Filia said. “Just trying to win pitches and win innings and we just excelled [Tuesday]. The offense really showed up, also.”
Shortstop Pat Valaika, who was 1-for-10 heading into the CWS Finals, added two hits in Monday night’s opener and made the most of his one hit Tuesday, driving in his team’s third run in the third inning.
“That’s how we do it,” Valaika said. “That’s how we’ve been doing the entire year. There isn’t just one guy that carries us. We don’t lean on one particular hitter, we just do it as a team.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world to win this as a team. We’re going to enjoy this one for a while.”
Leadoff hitter Brian Carroll scored three runs, even though he only had two official at-bats. He was hit by a pitch twice -- and scored twice.
Head coach John Savage, who is normally very stoic, did manage to show some emotion when he talked to the press on Tuesday night.
“We did it together,” Savage said. “It was a team effort all the way through and it just shows you what a true team can do.
“We did it the right way. We played baseball, good baseball. We hit, we pitched, we defended. We had quality offense, opportunistic offense for sure, and at the end of the day I think we outlasted everybody.”
Filia said at the end of the day, it all came down to one thing.
“Practice,” he said. “We have been trying to do it all year, executing and stuff like that. Really it's preparation, and I mean, one through nine we could all execute. And like Coach said, we just practiced it from Day 1 until [now].
“In batting cages and BP it's just really details, a lot of details that we pay attention to.”
Savage added that it’s those details that have made his team so good in not only defense, but the situational hitting that became the Bruins’ signature throughout the tournament.
“For us to play good in the games, you have to do it in practice and you have to do it in front of the coaches,” he said. “We work hard, conditioning, weights, practice, we got better, we got better in this tournament.
“That was one of our goals was to get better with our time off. We had practices. We made the most of Saturday and Sunday, and I can't say enough about the guys ... because they've earned it and people didn't believe in them.
“So congratulations to our players, their families and everybody associated with UCLA baseball. Thank you.”