Pat Valaika’s two-run double gave UCLA some cushion, record-setting closer David Berg survived a rocky ninth inning and UCLA defeated top-seeded North Carolina 4-1 Friday night to move to the championship round of the College World Series.
The Bruins (47-17) will begin the best-of-three finals Monday against Mississippi State, which eliminated Oregon State with a 4-1 win in the afternoon.
The Tar Heels (59-12) twice loaded the bases in the ninth against Berg but came away with only one run, with the game ending on Landon Lassiter’s flyout to center.
Grant Watson (9-3) allowed four hits in six innings. Carolina’s Kent Emanuel (11-5) gave up five singles in six innings.
UCLA opened the CWS with 2-1 victories over LSU and North Carolina State. The Bruins, with eight total runs, matched 1976 Eastern Michigan for fewest by a team in the metal-bat era that won its first three CWS games.
EYES ARE RIGHT
Oregon State center fielder Max Gordon was back in the lineup Friday after missing Wednesday’s game because of a problem with a contact lens.
Gordon was taken off the lineup card about a half-hour before the game against Indiana because he couldn’t see out of his right eye. He tweeted that he had put his contacts in allergy eye drops on Tuesday night, and a concentration of the medicine on the right contact caused his eye to dialate when he put the contact in on Wednesday.
Coach Pat Casey said he never had a player miss a game because of excessive eye dialation.
“They always tell you, you’ll never see everything in this game,” Casey said. “When you say, ‘I’ve seen everything,’ you haven’t seen everything.”
BIGGER GOALS AHEAD
UCLA pitcher Grant Watson can sense a change in the attitude of the Bruins after losing two of three games at last year’s CWS.
“We’re a lot more hungry than last year,” he said. “Yeah, we wanted to win it all, but getting to Omaha was a great goal that we reached. We got complacent with that. This year, we know we made it to Omaha but we have some unfinished business to take care of.”
Mississippi State batters did not strike out even once against Oregon State.
It was the first time at the CWS that a team hadn’t struck out since 2001, when Stanford did not strike out against Cal State Fullerton.
Mississippi State had not had a game with no strikeouts since at least 2006. Records weren’t available prior to that year.