UCLA beats North Carolina State 2-1 in College World Series
UCLA 2, North Carolina State 1. Two days after their trademarked steady pressure caused favorite LSU to crack, the Bruins broke the Wolfpack by the same score. This clearly is not a coincidence anymore: UCLA is perfectly built for success in the postseason, and now the club is only one win away from advancing to the national championship series because of it.
Nick Vander Tuig was masterfully efficient over seven-plus dart-throwing innings. UCLA needed only one run-scoring push from its offense to position him for the victory, and that frame came in typical Baby Blue fashion. The Bruins scored more runs than they registered hard hits in the fifth inning as they pressured the Wolfpack into making the game's fatal mistake. After a pair of walks and a hit, Bruin sophomore Kevin Kramer's flare to center field tied the game. Then, NC State pitcher Logan Jernigan threw a wild pitch. That miscue allowed UCLA's Brenton Allen to score the winning difference.
The Bruins entered the contest's back stretch leading by a single score, and that's precisely where John Savage's club shines behind its spotless play: UCLA is now a mind-boggling 17-2 in one-run games on the season. Vander Tuig shined under the confidence of the advantage, even delivering a four-pitch sixth inning. He was removed in favor of closer David Berg after surrendering a hit to lead off the eighth inning.
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That allowed the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year to break his own UCLA single-season save record. He notched his 23rd of the year by recording the final six outs in relatively uneventful fashion. The ninth inning was not nearly as stressful from the Bruins' perspective as it was on Sunday, when Berg was forced to work out of a jam against LSU.
UCLA remains undefeated (7-0) this postseason, and now it has earned what is, in effect, a precious bye in College World Series play. The Bruins will enjoy rest until Friday, when they have two chances to beat either NC State or North Carolina (depending on Thursday's winner) once to advance to the tournament's best-of-three championship series. Savage will have the opportunity to reset his pitching staff, and ace Adam Plutko will presumably be available should UCLA lose Friday and be forced to play a decisive game Saturday.
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Nobody in the Bruins' lineup is hitting over .280, but precise play in all facets of the game has put in them in this enviable position. Stay tuned for the next chapter on Friday at 5 p.m. PT.
David Lombardi has covered Pac-12 baseball since 2007. He’s a play-by-play voice and on-air reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.