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UCLA focuses on pitching & defense at CWS



Published: Mon, June 24, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb.

It’s hard enough pitching against the nation’s best in the College World Series. It would seem even tougher when runs are so difficult to come by for your team.

UCLA’S Adam Plutko said when he heads to the mound tonight for Game 1 of the finals against Mississippi State, he’ll just worry about himself and believe that somehow, some way his teammates will come through.

So far, the Bruins have turned their total of eight runs into three wins.

“We’ve played with each other all year long and there is a lot of trust,” Plutko said Sunday. “I’m sure you can look at it one way and say there’s a lot of pressure to hold a team. But at the same time, there is a lot of trust in the guys behind you.”

The Bruins’ pitchers have allowed a total of three runs at the CWS, with starters Plutko (9-3), Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson going at least six innings. Relievers James Kaprielian and Zack Weiss have combined for three innings of one-hit, shutout relief. Star closer David Berg has worked around trouble in two of his three appearances but has gotten the job done.

UCLA (47-17) will follow the same plan in the best-of-three finals matching programs looking for their first national championship in baseball.

Mississippi State coach John Cohen said he would start Trevor Fitts (0-0), who’ll be making only his sixth start of the season in 18 appearances.

The Bulldogs (51-18) have been the best-hitting team at the CWS, with a .297 average in wins over Oregon State (twice) and Indiana. Wes Rea is batting .462, best among players who have been in three or more CWS games, and Brett Pirtle is at .417.

Mississippi State’s average of 4.6 runs a game in Omaha is highest in a CWS on track to produce the least offense since the metal-bat era started in 1974.

Plutko and Vander Tuig and Berg, the National Stopper of the Year, have led the Bruins to their third CWS appearance in four years.

“We don’t have the physicalness, as I look at it, of the Southeastern Conference,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “Sometimes I’ll look out there when we’re stretching and go, ‘Oh, God.’ It’s not a real physical-looking team. But they’re baseball players. We have talent. It’s just a little different way of creating a team.”


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