UCLA played in the 2010 College World Series and has spent the last five years playing big game after big game. Stony Brook has had a nice run this postseason and have plenty of talent, but there is a big gulf in big game and College World Series and in Friday's 2012 College World Series opener it showed. The Bruins jumped on the Seawolves for five runs in the first inning then put it on cruise control en route to a 9-1 win that has them sitting pretty in the winner's bracket.
The Bruins got the job done with another complete offensive performance with production all the way up and down the lineup. Beau Amaral had two hits, a RBI and a run in the leadoff spot, while Kevin Kramer went 2-for-2 with two runs in the eight spot and Kevin Williams had two RBI in the nine spot. In between, Cody Keefer scored a pair and Jeff Gelalich and Pat Valaika each drove in two.
As has become routine, Adam Plutko turned in a great start in a big game. The right-hander struck out seven and walked just two in seven innings, allowing only one run in five innings to earn the win. Plutko is now 4-0 with 27 strikeouts in 30.2 innings and a 0.89 ERA in four postseason starts. David Berg worked two scoreless innings of relief behind him to slam the door shut on the Seawolves and finish up a near-perfect College World Series opener for the Bruins.
After Plutko worked a perfect top of the first inning, the offense went to work. Amaral singled to lead off the game and Tyler Heineman followed with a hit and run base hit. After a walk by Keefer loaded the bags, Gelalich worked the count full in a great at-bat before ripping the eighth pitch he saw to right for a two-RBI single and the Bruins were off and running. Trevor Brown added a RBI single and Pat Valaika's perfect safety squeeze scored another to make it 4-0 in favor of UCLA. Kramer then wrapped up the scoring with a single off of the third base bag, allowing Brown to score and before the Seawolves knew what hit them they were down by five.
Stony Brook did their best to get back into it in the second inning, but Plutko worked himself out of a jam to quell the Seawolves' rally. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with just one out, but he came through with a big strike out and then a pop up to first base.
The Seawolves were deflated and while a one-out solo home run got them on the scoreboard in the third, Plutko came back with consecutive strike outs. Once again, Plutko killed any momentum the Seawolves might be getting.
And just as Stony Brook got on the board with a homer in the top of the third, UCLA came back in the bottom half of the inning with some offense of their own. Cody Regis was hit by a pitch and Kramer walked with one out to chase Stony Brook ace Tyler Johnson, but that didn't slow the Bruin offense down. Williams crushed the second pitch he saw to dead center field for a two-RBI double and UCLA had themselves a 7-1 lead.
Two innings later, UCLA added to their lead when Kramer continued his hot hitting by ripping a one-out double just inside the first base bag. With two outs, Amaral them dumped a base hit into left center and Kramer scored easily.
While the UCLA offense was chipping away and adding a run or two here and there, Plutko was cruising. He retired five straight after giving up the home run and only really got into trouble once when he needed a fortunate call from the umpire to get an out at the plate. With the exception of that he was locked in and throwing like it was a Wednesday bullpen, not the biggest stage in college baseball.
The UCLA offense got involved again in the eighth inning when Valaika singled to score Keefer, but by then the game was already in the bag. Berg had come in to sit the Seawolves down 1-2-3 in the top half of the inning and had no problems in the ninth either. He put away Stony Brook one more time to finish up a clinical 9-1 win for the Bruins.
No team in the country is as hot as the Bruins, who are winners of 20 of their last 22 and are a perfect 6-0 in the postseason. They will continue College World Series play on Sunday at 6 pm PT against the winner of Florida St. vs Arizona in a crucial winner's bracket contest on ESPN2.