Friday night belonged to Adam Plutko (Photo Credit: Scott Wu)
Score early and watch Adam Plutko go to work. That seemed to be the game plan for UCLA on Friday night in their Regional opener and it worked to perfection. The Bruins scored three times in the first two innings then watched Plutko twirl a gem to get the Bruins off on the right foot in the postseason. The right-hander allowed just two hits and struck out seven in a complete game two-hitter, seeing off Creighton as UCLA cruised to a 3-0 victory at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Plutko's gem was just another in a long line of them in the last month. The UCLA ace was marvelous down the stretch and continued it into the postseason tonight pushing his record 5-0 with a 0.49 ERA in his last five starts.
The UCLA took a nap late in the game, not that it mattered much. With Plutko pitching and three early runs, they were in fine shape. Despite totaling just two hits after the second inning, it always felt like the Bruins were in control. Beau Amaral led the way at the plate with three hits and a RBI and Kevin Kramer had a hit, RBI and run in his postseason debut, but make no mistake, this was Plutko's night.
A seven-pitch first inning was just the first sign of what was going to be a dominating, efficient night for the UCLA starter. He looked equally as dominant in the second inning and by the time he took the mound in the third he had been staked to a three-run lead.
Cody Keefer picked up the Bruins' first hit of the game with two outs in the first inning to bring up Jeff Gelalich. The Golden Spikes Award semifinalist got ahead in the count 3-1 and picked out a fat pitch, smoking it to the wall in left center for a RBI double that got UCLA on the board first.
As was the case in the first inning, the first two Bruins were retired in the second inning, but UCLA got something going when Cody Regis singled. Kramer then matched Gellaich's two-out double to left center with one of his own, scoring Regis to double the UCLA lead. Amaral then got into the act too, lacing a double to the right center field gap to score Kramer and after two innings, the Bruins led 3-0.
Going up against Creighton's left-handed ace, Ty Blach, there were concerns about how UCLA's left-handed heavy lineup would fare, but they were tremendous early on. The Bruins' lefties went 5-for-6 with three doubles and three RBI in the first two innings and UCLA was off and running.
Creighton didn't put a runner on base until the fourth inning when they picked up a leadoff single, but Plutko followed that by getting a pop up and consecutive strikeouts to put the Blue Jays away. And by the fifth inning, he was back to sitting the Blue Jays down in order.
A leadoff walk and subsequent sacrifice bunt gave the Blue Jays some hope in the sixth inning, but Plutko squashed those dreams. He induced a pop up and got a full count strikeout to end the inning and leave Creighton dejected.
The one time Creighton really looked like they might get to Plutko was in the seventh, but Amaral had his back. After another leadoff walk Creighton hit back-to-back shots to centerfield, but Amaral chased down the Blue Jays' two hardest hit balls of the games for outs. Plutko then got a pop up to end the inning and UCLA was out of another inning up 3-0.
The UCLA offense wasn't even putting men on base, let alone scoring runs, but it didn't matter. The man who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning would prove to be the only man to get into scoring position all game thanks to the dominating Plutko.
When Plutko took to the mound in the ninth, he looked as strong as he did in the first. He induced a full count groundout, then punched out the next batter to put him within one out of the complete game. After a walk, Plutko got his seventh strikeout of the game and Plutko's gem was complete.
With the win the Bruins move into the winner's bracket of the Los Angeles Regional where they will play New Mexico, who beat San Diego, 4-0, earlier on Friday. The Bruins and Lobos will get underway on Saturday at 7 pm PT.