6/23/2013 4:05 P.M. ET
UCLA strong at top with pitchers Plutko, Vander Tuig
By Cash Kruth / MLB.com
OMAHA, Neb. -- It's not Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but for the second time in as many visits to the College World Series finals, UCLA has a winning one-two punch atop its rotation.
Junior right-handers Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig get the ball for UCLA against Mississippi State in the first two games of the College World Series finals, which begin with Plutko on the mound for Game 1 at 8 p.m. ET on Monday.
Plutko and Vander Tuig -- selected in the 11th and sixth rounds, respectively, of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft -- don't have the dominant stuff of Cole and Bauer, who anchored UCLA's rotation during the Bruins' run to the 2010 finals and were drafted Nos. 1 and 3 overall the next year.
Plutko (Indians) and Vander Tuig (Giants) do, however, have the same winning pedigree.
"You're talking about, I think, one of the best one-two combinations in the country that people still are not quite talking about," UCLA coach John Savage said. "You talk about the body of work of two guys and what they've done, I'd like to find two other guys who have had that type of work throughout their careers."
Their records are, indeed, impressive.
Plutko, UCLA's Friday starter the past two seasons, is 28-10 with a 2.37 ERA in three seasons. The 21-year-old has been even more impressive during the postseason, where he is 6-0 with an 0.87 ERA and one shutout in seven starts. His ERA is the lowest in school history among pitchers with at least 12 playoff innings.
Vander Tuig is 26-12 with a 3.27 ERA in his three-year career, which included a freshman stint as a part-time closer. The 21-year-old also been solid in the postseason, going 5-2 with a 2.54 ERA in nine games (six starts).
It's because of those successful experiences that Plutko said he doesn't anticipate many nerves before Game 1.
"It's really exciting. It's been a long road to get here," Plutko said. "I've taken the ball Friday night the last two years, so preparation is not much different, you know? I'm just going to focus on what I do and executing pitches, and that's pretty much it."
That confidence, Savage believes, stems from Cole and Bauer -- Plutko and Vander Tuig's teammates in 2011.
"They've learned how to be in the spotlight and perform at a high level," Savage said. "Adam and Nick learned a lot from those guys -- how to act, how to work, different pitches, how to handle big situations."
That's why Savage was thrilled to eliminate North Carolina on Friday and line up his pitching staff to open the finals with his top hurlers. Although Plutko (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and Vander Tuig (6-foot-3, 195) didn't go as high in the Draft as their track records suggest they could have, Savage said this is his team's perfect scenario for season's final series in Omaha.
"They just don't get the credit because they're not 92-to-96 [mph], they're not 6-foot-4, they're not 200 pounds, they're not first-rounders," Savage said. "But at the bottom line, they're great college pitchers that, I think, are going to translate to very good professional pitchers. I admire those guys and their work ethic and everything they stand for."