Adam Plutko was struggling, the offense was silent and momentum was squarely in favor of TCU, who looked the superior team from the very start. But UCLA was only down 2-1 and just kept hanging around waiting for the offense to come around. In the sixth inning it did and the Bruins, keyed by Cody Regis' three-RBI double, turned a 2-1 lead into a 6-2 lead that got Jackie Robinson Stadium jumping. From then on, the Bruins tightened the screws and put Horned Frogs away to grab a 6-2 win in game one of the Los Angeles Super Regional -- a win that puts them one win away from the College World Series.
It was hardly the Bruins' best game, but this is a team that has excelled in finding ways to win even when not at their best. Adam Plutko got hit hard early and the bullpen was up and active by the third inning. But the sophomore battled through seven-plus innings and excited with seven strikeouts and just two runs against him in a tough start to earn his second win of the postseason. David Berg worked the last two innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced to shut the door on the Horned Frogs.
There wasn't a whole lot to speak of offensive either as the Bruins notched just six hits in the ballgame, but the hits they had were timely. Regis' bases loaded double was the big belt for UCLA, but Trevor Brown also chipped in with two hits, two runs and a RBI. It didn't take the Bruins' best game to win, but it did take a tough game, which is what they got to move a win away from Omaha.
Plutko's struggled started from the beginning. The first batter of the game ran the count full and even though he struck out, Plutko was fighting himself. He went full to the next batter too, but wouldn't get away with it this time as Josh Elander blasted one way out to left for a solo homer that put TCU in front.
The second inning wasn't much easier for Plutko as he gave up a hard single and had a couple other hard hit balls, but he got out of it, then the UCLA offense got him even. Kevin Kramer singled with two strikes and two outs to score Brown and even the game at 1-1 after two innings.
That tie game would only last one batter as Kyle Von Tungeln lifted a fly ball to right that carried, and carried, and carried before coming down on the other side of the fence for TCU's second solo homer of the game. Plutko was back in trouble and the following inning TCU put men on the corners with one out to threaten again. A fake to third, throw to first got the Bruins' their second out of the inning before a pop up ended it, but Plutko was not on his game.
What made it worse for Plutko is that after scoring in the second, the Bruins' offense disappeared. They went down in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings to make the Frogs' starter Brandon Finnegan look unhittable.
Finnegan opened the door for UCLA in the sixth, though, and the Bruins were only too happy to take advantage. He walked Tyler Heineman on four pitches to start the inning, then hit Cody Keefer before getting the hook. Justin Sharf didn't do any better, hitting Jeff Gelalich to load the bases. That brought up Brown, the Bruins' top RBI man and he showed why, ripping the first pitch he saw up the middle for a RBI single to tie the game. Pat Valaika then hit a run-scoring fielder's choice and the Bruins had their first lead of the ballgame.
Only up a run, UCLA was hardly comfortable and needed a big hit, With men at second and third, TCU intentionally walked Brenton Allen to set up the double play, which brought up Regis. The junior has struggled all year and the Horned Frogs thought they could get him, but Regis made them pay when he tattooed a 1-2 pitch into the left center field gap. The crowd of 2,042 at Jackie Robinson Stadium exploded and all three men came around to score to give UCLA a 6-2 lead.
Staked to a four-run lead and with momentum having shifted to the Bruins' dugout, Plutko went out in the seventh and turned in his first great inning of the ballgame when UCLA needed it. He got an infield pop up then two strikeouts to send a statement to the Horned Frogs that they weren't getting back in this one.
Plutko's day game to an end after a swinging bunt started the eighth and he exited to a hearty applause from the Bruin faithful for his seven-plus very tough innings. That brought on Berg, who was sharp and then some. He sat the Horned Frogs down in order to finish the eighth, then punched out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to wrap up a great come from behind win for the Bruins.
UCLA will now try to take Saturday's 6 pm PT contest and book their ticket to Omaha for the second time in three years. Tickets for Saturday's game are still available here and the game will also be televised live on ESPN2.