LSU ace Aaron Nola, who is 12-0 with a 1.68 earned-run average, threw a two-hit… (Dave Martin / Associated…)
UCLA Coach John Savage was as giddy as his typically stoic demeanor would allow after his team defeated Cal State Fullerton, 3-0, Saturday night to advance to the College World Series.
"Whenever you get to Fullerton and win two games, beating what I think is the best team in the country, it says a lot about your character," Savage said.
Fans of Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Louisiana State might disagree about Fullerton's being the best team, but Savage's excitement was understandable.
UCLA (44-17) will play LSU (57-9) in a College World Series opener Saturday. Although the Titans rank No. 1 in the Savage Poll, the Tigers rank No. 1 in Baseball America's college poll.
The Bruins have momentum, though, having won 17 of their last 20 games.
"We just formed; we bonded and became a team a couple weeks ago," Savage said. "It felt a little different in practice. We became a tougher team."
They will have to be. LSU swept Oklahoma in its NCAA super-regional, winning the clincher 11-1. LSU's starting pitcher is expected to be Aaron Nola, who has a record of 12-0 with a 1.68 earned-run average. He threw a two-hit shutout against Oklahoma in the super-regional opener.
UCLA is batting .251 as a team. The Bruins are expected to counter with Adam Plutko (8-3, 2.35). He is 5-0 with an 0.82 ERA in six postseason starts.
Tuig, not Puig
UCLA starter Nick Vander Tuig baffled Fullerton on Saturday, giving up no runs and leaving with a 3-0 lead after 6 1/3 innings.
It was another positive postseason moment to offset the one bad night. Vander Tuig, then a relief pitcher, couldn't hold a one-run lead against UC Irvine in 2011. He gave up three consecutive hits in a 4-3 loss that eliminated the Bruins.
"To be honest, I hadn't really thought about that moment a lot … thanks a lot," Vander Tuig said jokingly after Saturday's game.
He added that it was a key moment in his development. "You learn a lot through not getting jobs done," Vander Tuig said. "I grew a lot as a pitcher that day."
Vander Tuig became a starter in 2012 and is 4-1 in postseason play the last two seasons.
Fullerton was able to get eight hits against him, but he stranded four runners in scoring position.
Savage has 27 postseason victories, the most in UCLA history. Gary Adams had 26. … UCLA has been to the World Series three times in four seasons. The Bruins went twice from 1947 to 2009. … Closer David Berg won one game and saved the other in the super-regional. He threw 74 pitches in 4 1/3 innings.