UCLA continues strange CWS with win over favored LSU
Bruins fourth lower-seeded club to win first-round game, will play NC State
OMAHA, Neb. -- An upside-down College World Series continued on Sunday night as UCLA beat LSU, 2-1, on a pair of unearned runs.
The Tigers came to Omaha regarded as an elite defensive team, but two errors proved their downfall. It marked the fourth win in as many games for the team designated the visitor, which is to say the lower seed.
Both starting pitchers, the Bruins' Adam Plutko and the Tigers' Aaron Nola, pitched excellent games. Unfortunately for Nola, the UCLA defense played more crisply than the No. 4 seeded LSU defense, and UCLA capitalized on LSU's errors.
"Opportunistic would be the word," said UCLA head coach John Savage. "That one inning we got an error, we got a ground ball, we got a sac fly. Nola threw five pitches that inning and we got a run. There's something there. It's hard to describe. ... We've been fortunate. But good teams create their own breaks a lot of times."
Mason Katz's homer, the first by any player in the CWS thus far, put the Bayou Bengals ahead in the fourth inning, but it was a short-lived lead.
Brian Carroll led off the top of the sixth with a bunt, and when catcher Ty Ross' throw got away, he scooted to second. A grounder advanced him to third, and Carroll scored the tying run on Eric Filia's sacrifice fly.
Two innings later, a Tyler Moore single and a sacrifice by Carroll put a runner in scoring position. With two outs, Filia hit a hard grounder at shortstop Alex Bregman, who couldn't corral it. The ball skipped into the outfield, and pinch-runner Christoph Bono scored the winning run.
All the while, Plutko was cruising. He used TD Ameritrade Park's spacious dimensions to his advantage, getting fly out after fly out over the course of his seven innings. Plutko induced 13 outs in the air against six on the ground, to go along with a pair of strikeouts.
Nola was plenty strong himself. He allowed five hits and one walk, striking out five, over eight innings. But he was frequently in trouble, allowing at least one baserunner in seven of his eight innings.
"It was real frustrating getting that, letting that leadoff guy get on," he said. "But it's happened to me before throughout the year. And I battled as hard as I could until the last pitch. Unfortunately, [we] booted a couple of balls around. But you've just got to forget about that, and we're just going to come out Tuesday and compete."
The Tigers rarely threatened against Plutko or James Kaprielian, but put a scare into David Berg in the ninth. Pinch-hitters Jared Foster and Ty Moore both reached base with two outs, but JaCoby Jones flied out to end the game.
Shortly before Berg retired Jones, UCLA tried a strange trick play. Berg faked a pickoff throw to second, and UCLA defenders acted as though the ball had gotten away into the outfield. The hope was that Foster would break for third, but he didn't stray, and UCLA got Jones the old-fashioned way.
LSU will play No. 1 overall seed North Carolina in an elimination game on Tuesday afternoon. UCLA will play North Carolina State on Tuesday night in a winner's bracket game. The winner of that game will be one victory away from the championship series.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.