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Bruins beat Tigers to open College World Series play

Pitcher Adam Plutko gives up a home run, but UCLA holds on for a 2-1 victory over LSU.

June 16, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA's Pat Valaika, left, and Cody Regis celebrate after the last out against LSU.
UCLA's Pat Valaika, left, and Cody Regis celebrate after the last… (Ted Kirk / Associated Press )

This is UCLA baseball.

It's a little like a Penn & Teller magic/comedy act. When it's over, you wonder how the Bruins did it, and are left chuckling at the idea.

Pitcher Adam Plutko had his business-as-usual postseason performance. A couple runs materialized out of nowhere, with Louisiana State lending a hand. Reliever David Berg handled the grand finale, pitching a scoreless ninth around two singles and a walk for his 22nd save.

This, though, was a tad different. The Bruins' 2-1 victory at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha on Sunday in the College World Series came against the top-ranked Tigers. This was the big-bad from the South, but it was the Bruins (45-17) who advanced to play North Carolina State (50-14) in the winner's bracket on Tuesday.

The Bruins went by the book … their book. UCLA has scored two or fewer runs in 19 games this season and are 16-2 in one-run games.

"I think we have played so many of these games that they are comfortable being uncomfortable," said Coach John Savage. "In tight games, it's a pitch here and a pitch there."

Plutko was true to form, neither overpowering nor hittable.

LSU (57-11) had a .308 team batting average. The lineup has a bang-bang duo of Alex Bregman (.380, six home runs and 52 runs batted in) and Mason Katz (.366, 16 home runs, 69 RBIs).

Plutko turned the Tigers into pussycats with a fastball that struggled to break 90 mph. He got 12 outs on fly balls or popups. His one problem was the fly ball that didn't come down, at least not in play. Katz buried a 1-2 pitch for his 16th home run and a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.

The Bruins had little reason to worry. Plutko, who gave up four hits, retired 11 of the last 14 batters he faced. He is 6-0 with a 0.88 earned-run average in seven postseason starts during his three-year college career.

"His fastball is a little deadlier than people give him credit for," Savage said.

The Bruins provided their usual support, with a little of this and a little of that against Aaron Nola, who was 12-0 with a 1.68 ERA entering the game.

Nola was dominating, just not enough.

Brian Carroll had a bunt single and continued to second on a throwing error to lead off the sixth inning. He scored on Eric Filia's sacrifice fly.

Pinch-hitter Ty Moore singled to start the eighth inning. Pinch-runner Christoph Bono was sacrificed to second. With two out, Filia hit a sharp ground ball that went off shortstop Bregman's glove, allowing Bono to score.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Foster reported from Los Angeles.

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