UCLA caps first title by blanking Mississippi State
OMAHA, Neb. -- UCLA has had All-Americans, No. 1 Draft picks and future All-Stars come through its baseball program.
And yet for all of the Bruins' success, not one baseball player has ever been able to call himself a national champion -- until now.
Right-hander Nick Vander Tuig tossed eight shutout innings and the Bruins' offense had its best showing of the postseason to lead UCLA to an 8-0 win over Mississippi State on Tuesday at TD Ameritrade Park to secure the program's first national championship.
"They did it on the field," UCLA coach John Savage said. "I don't think any of the experts thought we would be here at this stage, and we did it the right way. We played baseball."
Vander Tuig -- a sixth-round pick by the Giants in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft -- allowed five hits, struck out six and walked one. He teamed with Most Outstanding Player right-hander Adam Plutko (11th round, Indians) to lead a UCLA staff that posted an 0.80 ERA in five College World Series games.
"They did a good job changing speeds and getting them up and down in the zone, and we weren't disciplined at the plate," Mississippi State shortstop Adam Frazier said. "Hats off to them for getting the job done and winning two games for a national championship."
And while the Bruins relied heavily on their pitching and defense all season, a postseason-high eight runs provided plenty of cushion Tuesday.
Even with that offensive output, UCLA's 19 total College World Series runs are the lowest ever for a national champion, while the Bruins (.193) also are the first champion to slug less than .200. Of course, small ball has been their style of play all season, and UCLA is used to pouncing on opponents' mistakes and putting pressure on the defense.
Well aware of that mentality, Mississippi State had its bullpen stirring after left-hander Luis Pollorena's fourth pitch of the game hit UCLA's Brian Carroll -- a mistake the Bruins wouldn't let pass.
Third baseman Kevin Kramer's bunt was bobbled by Pollorena, whose throw to first was dropped by Wes Rea. Carroll advanced to third and later scored on Eric Filia's sacrifice fly.
The Bruins added two in the third inning against left-hander Ross Mitchell, who relieved Pollorena after one inning. Carroll drew a one-out walk and scored on a safety squeeze by Filia, who came home on Pat Valaika's single to right.
The game, although only a third of the way done, was all but over.
"I thought UCLA played a great ballgame, and we didn't," Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. "We're incredibly disappointed in today and yesterday, but obviously not in our body of work for the year."
Vander Tuig and the bullpen took care of the rest.
The junior sat down the first eight batters he faced, left two stranded in the fourth and fifth innings and retired 11 of his final 13.
Sophomore David Berg worked a perfect ninth to secure the title for the Bruins.
"This is for the UCLA baseball family," Savage said. "We played good baseball. We pitched, we defended, we had quality offense -- opportunistic offense, for sure. And at the end of the day, I think we outlasted everybody."