When UCLA gave up their 3-1 lead in the eighth inning, it looked like they were dead. After all, they were playing Cal St. Fullerton, their nemesis, and the Bruins don't normally have enough offense to get a lead twice. As the game went to extra innings, it looked like a matter of time before the Titans won, but then the unexpected happened -- UCLA found their bats.
The Bruins scored in the 10th inning, then they added a second to take down the Titans 5-3 in the first game of the Super Regionals and move within one win of the College World Series.
Adam Plutko gave UCLA the start they desperately needed against an excellent Fullerton team, tossing seven strong innings. He allowed just one unearned run on six hits and while he did not earn the win, he put the Bruins in position to claim the all-important first game.
Eric Filia did the rest, notching four hits, including the game-winning RBI to lead the nine-hit UCLA attack. Brian Carroll also got the job done at the top of the order with two hits, two runs and a stolen base, while Pat Valaika drove in two.
Plutko had to work around trouble in the early going as the leadoff man reached in four of the first five innings, but he did the job. And in the third, the offense did the job, scoring the first run of the game. Shane Zeile singled to lead off the inning and after a sacrifice bunt, a grounder by Brenton Allen scored Zeile for a 1-0 UCLA lead.
Filia got the Bruins going the following inning with a single to lead things off before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. A strikeout seemed to doom the Bruins, but last week's Regional Most Outstanding Player Pat Gallagher came through with a two-out RBI single and UCLA had a bit of a cushion at 2-0.
That cushion only lasted half an inning because a throwing error by Zeile helped the Titans push across their first run of the game, but it wasn't all Zeile doing. The man who scored reached on a walk, which would hurt UCLA again later in the game.
UCLA got that run back in the eighth when Carroll led off the inning with a bunt single. Once again, a sacrifice bunt moved the runner over before Filia singled to put men on the corners. A Valaika ground ball proved to be enough from there as Carroll scored and UCLA looked well on their way to victory.
But Fullerton fought back in the bottom of the eighth. James Kaprielian walked the leadoff man, then David Berg came in and walked the next man. A sacrifice bunt put the tying run in scoring position before a groundout cut the UCLA lead to 3-2. With two outs, that seemed to be okay for the Bruins, especially with Berg on the mound, but a high chopper left UCLA no chance to get the third out and the tying run came in to score. Two walks to start the inning, two runs and the game was all even.
Instead of just going away, though, the Bruins came back. It took until the 10th, but they found some more offense. Carroll's one-out single got things going and a single by Kevin Kramer put two on for Filia. The Bruins' big hitter all night came through one more time, pulling a single through the right side to score Carroll. A sacrifice fly by Valaika added one more for good measure and UCLA had their lead back, plus another run to make things a little more comfortable.
Things weren't so comfortable for the Bruins in the bottom of the 10th when consecutive one-out singles brought the go-ahead run to the plate. An epic at-bat followed, with J.D. Davis fouling off pitch after pitch in a 11th pitch at-bat, but Berg finally got him looking, followed it with another strikeout and UCLA had Game 1 in Fullerton.
The Bruins and Titans will resume their Super Regional on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT on ESPN2, where a UCLA win will send them to Omaha for the third time in four years.