By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – Mississippi State’s quest for an NCAA College World Series title remains alive, but it’s going to take a national championship effort from the Bulldogs … plus two wins.
UCLA’s pesky offense scratched for just enough hits – six – and runs to defeat MSU 3-1 Monday of the first game of their best-of-three series in front of 25,690 at TD Ameritrade Park.
Game 2 between the Bulldogs (51-19) and Bruins (48-17) is scheduled for 7 p.m. today on ESPN. If MSU wins and forces a Game 3, it would be played at 7 Wednesday.
“We played a very good baseball team tonight,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “Some things didn’t go our way tonight.
“We got to put everything behind us and win two games.”
The Pac-12 Bruins got a strong pitching effort from starter Adam Plutko (10-3). He was lifted in the seventh after six efficient innings. He gave up four hits, recorded two strikeouts and walked one.
Plutko’s relievers – James Kaprielien, Zack Weiss and David Berg, the NCAA Stopper of the Year – finished the job with a two-hit effort over the final three innings.
Berg got the save, his NCAA single-season record 24th, but not without a scare in the ninth.
C.T. Bradford’s one-out single and pinch-hitter Sam Frost’s base hit to left put runners on first and second for MSU. Berg got the final two outs on a fly ball and a ground ball.
Down 3-0, MSU scored its lone run in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk by Plutko to Bradford. The Bulldogs had loaded the bases on singles by Alex Detz and Brett Pirtle and Wes Rea being hit in the elbow by a pitch. A fly ball to right ended the scoring threat.
Detz’ single was the first hit off UCLA’s star.
MSU got a strong pitching performance from left-hander Chad Girodo, who relieved starting right-hander Trevor Fitts after 1 1⁄3 innings. He gave up three hits and recorded nine strikeouts in 7 2⁄3 innings. The two pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts.
MSU also threatened in the seventh, but saw Demarcus Henderson hit into a double play. A ground out by Adam Frazier ended the inning.
UCLA took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on back-to-back base hits – a double by Eric Filia and an RBI single by Pat Valaika. A defensive fielding gem by Rea at first base on a grounder ended the inning with Bruins on the corners.
UCLA made it 3-0 with two unearned runs in the fourth inning.