UCLA’s offense showed up this time, which meant Mississippi State never had a chance.
Eric Filia drove in a career-high five runs, Nick Vander Tuig limited Mississippi State to five hits in eight innings, and UCLA won its first national championship in baseball with an 8-0 victory Tuesday night.
The Bruins (49-17) completed a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals and ended the season with 11 consecutive wins. The national title is UCLA’s NCAA-record 109th in team sports.
“They had a great year,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “And it was one of those situations where it was our time.”
Adam Plutko, the Bruins’ No. 1 starter, was named the CWS’ Most Outstanding Player. He beat LSU in the Bruins’ first game and was the winner in Game 1 of the finals. He allowed two runs in 13 innings.
Vander Tuig held off the Bulldogs (51-20) when they threatened in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings and recorded his fourth win in the NCAA tournament. Vander Tuig (14-4) struck out six and walked one. David Berg pitched the ninth.
Filia produced runs with a sacrifice fly, squeeze bunt and two base hits as the Bruins collected 12 hits and scored their most runs in 18 games.
“I thrive on this, absolutely,” Filia said. “We just stayed with our approach. We stayed small and barreled balls up.”
Bulldogs starter Luis Pollorena (6-4) lasted one inning. Jonathan Holder, the Bulldogs’ closer, came on with one out in the fourth inning and went the rest of the way.
UCLA allowed four runs in five games to set a CWS record for fewest in the metal-bat era that started in 1974.
The Bruins’ .227 batting average in the CWS also was the lowest since teams went away from wood bats. The Bruins’ 19 runs in five games were the fewest by a champion since the CWS went to eight teams in 1950.
“It was a team effort all the way through,” Savage said. “It was guys believing in each other and being great teammates. People didn’t believe in us all season long. We kept battling, and it’s a team win.”
After Arizona’s title last year, the Pac-12 has now won two in a row and has 17 in all in baseball, most of any conference.
Mississippi State was playing for its first national title in a team sport and was the sixth consecutive Southeastern Conference team to make it to the finals.
Vander Tuig, who won his fourth consecutive postseason start, gave up just one earned run in 21 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
The Bruins won the title in their third CWS appearance in four years and fifth all-time. They had made it to the finals in 2010 and were swept by South Carolina. Last year they went 1-2 in Omaha.
This season they finished third in the Pac-12, behind Oregon State and Oregon, and then got hot in the postseason.
They made magic with an offense that started Tuesday 264th out of 296 teams in batting (.247) and 215th in scoring (4.7 runs per game) but among the national leaders in sacrifices, walks and hit batsmen.
They won three consecutive at home in regionals and went on the road to upset No. 5 national seed Cal State Fullerton in a two-game super regional.
Once they got to Omaha, the Bruins made themselves at home in spacious TD Ameritrade Park. UCLA produced just enough offense to support its superb pitching and defense in bracket play, and again in Game 1 of the finals.
The pitching and defense showed up again in Game 2, and this time so did the offense.
“We’ve been capable all season long,” Savage said. “We have good players. I said that all along. They started to believe, and they used the whole field. Fortunately, we had some hits (Tuesday night).”
UCLA was up three runs early – a lead that has been insurmountable for every team in this year’s CWS.
The Bruins, as usual, were creative and opportunistic. They used a hit batsman, a bunt that produced two Mississippi State errors, and Filia’s sacrifice fly to lead 1-0 in the first. It was 3-0 in the third after Brian Carroll scored on a safety squeeze bunt by Filia and Pat Valaika’s RBI single.
The Bulldogs called on their closer, Jonathan Holder, with one out in the fourth after Cody Regis singled in another run. Holder hit Carroll to load the bases, and another sacrifice fly made it 5-0.