UCLA's style reminiscent of '10 world champion Giants
New bats, spacious dimensions play into Bruins' low-scoring ways
OMAHA, Neb. -- The big leaguers a few hours up the California coast called it "torture." The 2013 UCLA baseball team may not have such a memorable name for their brand of baseball, but it's decidedly reminiscent of those 2010 World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
Nothing comes easy for the Bruins, but it always seems to work out. They scratched out yet another hard-fought win on Tuesday night, beating North Carolina State, 2-1, to take control of Bracket Two in the College World Series.
The win put UCLA one win away from its second championship series berth in four seasons. The program has never won a national championship.
"I guess that's who we are," head coach John Savage said. "It's Bruin baseball. Sometimes it's grueling. It's tough to watch, I'm sure, from outside the dugout. ... Sometimes, it's walking a tightrope, and tonight was one of those nights."
UCLA plays a low-scoring, high-pressure brand of baseball. The Bruins ranked among the top-50 teams in Division I in two offensive categories: walks and sacrifice bunts. But they're now 17-2 in one-run games and 26-3 in games decided by one or two runs.
With TD Ameritrade Park's spacious dimensions and Omaha's unfriendly winds, the Bruins are well suited for the brand of baseball that takes place here. Thanks to the ballpark and college baseball's new, less powerful bats, the College World Series has become a low-scoring event. That's just fine with UCLA.
The proof is in the results -- UCLA has scored four runs in the College World Series and they're 2-0.
"Our style has worked, I think, with the bats changing," Savage said. "I think you would have to say that's benefited us in some way. And then [it] happens, this ballpark -- it's a bigger ballpark, clearly. So, that plays into our hands. But we're still playing good baseball. You've got to play good baseball."
It also helps to have a guy at the end of games who makes sure those small leads stand up. David Berg locked down Tuesday's game for his 23rd save of the season, equaling an NCAA single-season record.
Berg hit a batter and allowed a single over two innings and got quite a scare when N.C. State's Trea Turner crushed a ball to the wall in left. But, as usual, Berg brought it home.
"Berg is Berg, and he's a stud," Turner said. "He doesn't miss very many spots, either. He threw just a couple of balls. His stuff is about unhittable because it sinks so much."
The Bruins now wait for the winner of Thursday's rematch between North Carolina and N.C. State. Win, and UCLA baseball will make another appearance in the final series.
"We're not going to put up any gaudy numbers," said third baseman Kevin Kramer. "It's just moreso a team effort. ... From the offense, it does get a little frustrating at times, but when you have great pitchers like this, we know that we can put up a couple of runs and play defense, because we know these guys will take us a long way."
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.