For the first time ever, UCLA stands atop the college baseball world.
A chopper to first base was fielded by Pat Gallagher, who gathered and tossed it to David Berg. It took just one catch from there, and a step by Berg on the bag at first to seal something UCLA had never done before -- conquered college baseball.
Backed by another great pitching performance, more fantastic defense and a relative offensive explosion, UCLA defeated Mississippi St., 8-0, on Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park to claim the national title. It capped a perfect 10-0 postseason by the Bruins and put to bed the long-standing, and for decades true, notion that UCLA were perennial underachievers. Now, there is not another team in the country better and the Bruins have a trophy to prove it.
Nick Vander Tuig actually managed to lower UCLA's College World Series ERA to a miniscule 0.80 with the best start of a fantastic Bruin batch of pitching performance. The junior struck out six in eight innings of shutout ball, befuddling a good Mississippi St. offense from the first out until the 24th. From there, it was David Berg's turn to seal things, which he did with the last three outs in his 51st appearance of the season.
UCLA also got their biggest offensive output in six weeks, and it came in large part due to Eric Filia. The sophomore capped a remarkable postseason with a five-RBI effort, while Brian Carroll did the work in front of him, reaching three times and scoring each time. Senior Cody Regis, making his third trip to the College World Series, did his part too, with a two-hit, two-run, RBI performance to put a ribbon on his Bruin career.
For the second straight game, UCLA jumped on Mississippi St. in the first inning and unsurprisingly, they did it with small ball and by feasting on Bulldog mistakes. Brian Carroll was hit by a pitch to start the frame and when Kevin Kramer put down a good sacrifice bunt, the Bulldogs threw it away, allowing Carroll to take third. The red-hot FIlia then did his job, roping one to right field for a sacrifice fly that gave UCLA an early lead.
UCLA added to their lead in the third and once again, it was picture perfect small ball that did it. Carroll walked with one out and a single by Kramer put men on the corners. Filia, who had been crushing the ball all postseason then put down a gorgeous bunt that scored Carroll and the Bruins had themselves a 2-0 lead. But the Bruins kept coming and Pat Valaika followed with a single down the right field line, scoring Kramer and UCLA had themselves a three-run advantage.
More excellent offensive execution followed the next inning when Kevin Williams started things off by wearing a pitch on the elbow. Shane Zeile then bunted hm to second before Cody Regis bounced a single through the middle to score him. Like the previous inning, UCLA wasn't content with a run, though, and Brenton Allen crushed a ball to right for a RBI double that put the Bruins up 5-0.
A single, sacrifice bunt and single kept the UCLA offense humming and the scoreboard at work in the sixth. Regis got it going with his base hit and Allen moved him over before, who else but Filia, singled right up the box to score another UCLA run.
All the while, Vander Tuig was absolutely sensational. In a postseason that has featured nothing but great UCLA pitching, the right-hander put up a performance as good as any other. He retired the first seven Bulldogs he faced and was never in trouble until the fourth.
A lead off single and a rare Bruins error with one out put two on for Mississippi St., but Vander Tuig didn't flinch. Consecutive fly outs ended the inning and UCLA still had their shutout. Consecutive singles to start the fifth couldn't faze Vander Tuig either, as he got a fielder's choice and two strikeouts to end the frame.
Mississippi St. didn't put another man in scoring position until the eighth, when a single and a stolen base gave the Bulldogs hope that they could finally scratch a run against Vander Tuig, but they couldn't. The right-hander retired the next three men in order to finish a brilliant night for the junior.
UCLA added to their lead in the eighth just for good measure. Christoph Bono, Carroll and Kramer all singled with one out to set the stage for Filia, who did what he's done all postseason long. He picked out his pitch and squared it up, lacing a two-RBI single to right and UCLA was on their way to a national title.
The Bruins' magical championship season ended just as it should -- with David Berg on the mound. It took just three batters, and three outs, and UCLA were champions for the first time ever.