CWS Primer: UCLA
Omaha History: 5 CWS appearances
Overview: Third verse same as the last two verses for the UCLA Bruins. This is their third trip to the College World Series in the past four years. And once again the Bruins are built on their pitching and their defense. UCLA owns the 9th best team ERA in the county, and they ranks sixth in the nation in fielding percentage. Some might call their style boring, but Bruins fans probably think of their style as “winning”. For years USC and Cal State Fullerton have been the dominant California programs. But UCLA’s recent run has helped them find a place among the west coast giants. Despite being a small ball program there’s plenty of talent on this team. Seven Bruins were selected in this year’s MLB Draft.
Road To Omaha: UCLA turned up their pitching and defense in the postseason as they swept through regional play and Super Regional play. In the Super Regionals they swept Cal State Fullerton. The Titans owned a ridiculous 51-7 record, but they couldn’t solve the Bruins fundamentally sound game plan.
Players To Watch:
David Berg - It’s not often a reliever will find their way onto this list, but Berg is no regular reliever. He was on the Golden Spikes watch list, because he finds a way to effect nearly every single game. He was near the top of the country with 20 saves. He also racked up a 7-0 record out of the bullpen. On top of that he’s been nearly untouchable. He put up an insane 0.88 ERA on the year. It’s safe to say if you get behind against the Bruins then the game might already be over.
Adam Plutko - The junior ace is back in the C-W-S for a second straight season. And for the second straight season he’ll likely pitch the Bruins opener. Last year he only gave up one run on his way to picking up the Bruins only win in the series. The Cubs draft pick racked up an 8-3 record with a 2.35 ERA on the season.
Take The Title If…: If the rest of UCLA’s talented pitching staff steps up the Bruins should make a deep run. They have all of the makings of a team that could win the CWS. They pitch well. They play great defense. And they have postseason experience.
Quick Trip If…: If like last year UCLA’s offense goes M.I.A. and the pitching staff behind Plutko falters then the Bruins will be gone by early in the tournament’s first week.
Why Should Omaha Cheer For Them?: They are about as close to a Creighton clone as you can get. They rely on pitching and defense to get the job done, and they play fundamentally sound at every position. It’s a team Ed Servais would be proud of. And it’s a team Omaha should be used to seeing.