Small ball, big win
Bruins not afraid to get scrappy to earn first-round win
OMAHA, Neb. -- Scratch, claw, win.
That’s exactly what UCLA did on Sunday night as the Bruins edged LSU 2-1 in the College World Series. Runs were at a premium in the ballgame, but UCLA kept at it until the end and the Bruins were rewarded with an opening-game victory.
The Bruins got the leadoff hitter on base in six consecutive innings, beginning in the third frame. They created opportunities and jumped on LSU mistakes in a pitching duel between aces Aaron Nola and UCLA’s Adam Plutko.
“That was a grind,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “You're talking about a crowd that was certainly in the favor of LSU and we anticipated that. I think at the end of the day it was our type of game.”
Training 1-0 in the sixth inning, Brian Carroll woke up the Tiger defense -- and the UCLA crowd -- with a beautiful bunt basehit and advanced to second base because of a throwing error by LSU catcher Ty Ross. Carroll went on to score on a sacrifice fly by rightfielder Eric Filia, tying the game at one.
“Good teams create their own breaks a lot of times,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “Nola threw five pitches that inning and we got a run.”
“They put a little pressure on us,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “They put a bunt down. They slapped a ball on the ground and forced us to make a couple of plays and we just came up empty on those plays and basically handed them a couple of runs. Their pitchers did a good job and they made the plays and that's why we lost.”
In the eighth inning, opportunity came knocking once again. Pinch-hitter Ty Moore belted a basehit to leftfield off Nola to get UCLA going and Carroll bunted him over to second. Filia ripped a hard-hit ball to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, which he couldn’t handle, allowing Moore to score the go-ahead run for the Bruins.
“We don't hit home runs,” Filia said. “We play small ball. We get the next guy up to the next at-bat and everything like that. I feel like this field really played to our advantage. We don't try to get too big. We just try to stay small and use the middle of the field and everything. And that was really our approach going into the game and against Nola, especially, a great pitcher like him. It worked out…we just kept grinding him, grinding him, his pitch count got up a little bit. And we wore him out towards the end.”
“We knew Aaron would give us a chance to win,” Mainieri said. “And he did. Unfortunately, uncharacteristically for us, we made a couple of misplaced defensively that cost us dearly. And had
we made all the plays for Aaron, they may not have scored.”
The Tigers entered the game with the fifth-best fielding percentage (.980), but committed two errors in the contest.
“We really gift wrapped the two runs that they did score,” Mainieri said. “But I thought it would take two or three runs to win this game, and we were only able to scratch across one.”