June 21, 2013
OMAHA, Neb. - UCLA jumped to an early lead and took advantage of an outstanding outing by pitcher Grant Watson to defeat No. 1-seed North Carolina, 4-1, and advance to the College World Series Finals.
Watson (9-3) threw six shutout innings and struck out three batters. The sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., surrendered four hits and walked one.
North Carolina's Kent Emanuel suffered the loss, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out seven batters and walked three.
For the first time in this year's College World Series, UCLA grabbed the lead first, starting when junior Pat Gallagher singled with one out in the bottom of the second. Junior Kevin Williams followed that up with another single to right, moving Gallagher to third. Two batters later, senior Cody Regis brought Gallagher home with yet another single to right, making it 1-0 Bruins.
After setting the Tar Heels down in order in the third, Watson got into a little bit of trouble in the fourth. With one out, he hit Brian Holberton with a pitch and then gave up an infield single to Cody Stubbs to put runners on first and second. However, Watson battled back, and got Skye Bolt to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Watson continued his stellar pitching to make UCLA's lead hold up, keeping North Carolina off the board in the fifth and sixth innings while getting some help from great defense behind him. Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Bruins added a much needed insurance run to bring their lead up to two. Sophomore Eric Filia reached on an error by Stubbs at first to start the inning, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Pat Valaika. After a single by Gallagher put runners at first and third with one out, Williams came up and knocked in Filia with a RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0 Bruins.
Watson gave up a leadoff single to Stubbs to start the seventh, giving way to freshman James Kaprieilian, who struck out two batters and induced a fly out to keep UCLA ahead.
In the bottom half of the frame, Valaika helped put the game out of reach, smacking a two-run double down the left field line to score Brian Carroll and Filia to give UCLA a four-run advantage.
After Zack Weiss delivered a scoreless eighth inning, it came down to closer David Berg to finish it off in the ninth inning with a 4-0 lead and a non-save situation. Berg loaded the bases after allowing two singles and a walk to start the inning before the Tar Heels put one on the board. Mike Zolk hit a grounder to second that got the runner out at second, but scored Cody Stubbs to cut UCLA's lead to 4-1. Berg got Parks Jordan swinging on three pitches for the second out, but then walked Chaz Frank to load the bases again. Berg hung tough though, and got Landon Lassiter to pop up to center field to end the game and put the Bruins in the Championship Series for the second time in the last four years.
"It was our style of baseball," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "It was pitching, solid defense, opportunistic offense. I thought we had better at-bats tonight. We used the middle field better. We're capable offensively. They're just as good as any part of our game. We do feel that way. If you look at the scores you won't write it up that way. But there's a lot of faith and trust in those players.
"We still have not accomplished what we wanted to, but it's on to the next round, and I can't be happy enough and prouder of our team."
UCLA (47-17) will face Mississippi State (51-18) in game one of the championship series on Monday, June 24 at 7 p.m. CT/5 p.m. PT. This will be UCLA's second appearance in the championship series in the last four years and Mississippi State's first-ever. Both teams are looking for their first-ever NCAA Baseball Championship.
Game Notes: This is the second time in program history that UCLA has reached the College World Series Finals (2010)...The Bruins are now 8-0 in the postseason and the only team left in the College World Series that has not lost a game in postseason play...UCLA's eight-game postseason winning streak is now the longest postseason winning streak in program history... UCLA has outscored its opponents by 20 runs in this postseason (33-13)...UCLA has posted the three most single-season wins in program history in the last four years (2010 - 51, 2012 - 48, 2013 - 47)...UCLA's three runs allowed in the CWS so far is the fewest by a team in its first 3 CWS games in the aluminum bat era (since 1974)...The last time two unseeded teams have reached the CWS Finals was 2006 when Oregon State defeated North Carolina...This will be the fifth time in the CWS and the third time in the last four years that a Pac-12 and SEC team will face each other in the finals...UCLA's nine-game winning streak is its longest since May 22-June 15, 2010...UCLA is now 30-14 in the postseason under head coach John Savage, who holds the school record for most career postseason wins...UCLA's starting pitchers have combined for a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings so far in the CWS while the staff as a whole has posted a 1.00 ERA at the CWS...Pat Gallagher extended his career-long hitting streak to nine games with his 2-4 night...UCLA is now 37-1 when holding its opponents to three runs or fewer and 30-6 when scoring first...This is the 31st time this season the Bruins have held their opponents to two runs or fewer.