By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – The TD Ameritrade Park looked like Dudy Noble Midwest on Monday night, but once the game started, it rarely sounded like it.
That’s because UCLA, which didn’t have nearly the fan turnout as Mississippi State did, had possession of the mute button. Right-handed pitcher Adam Plutko silenced the Bulldog bats, which had been hot all postseason, as the Bruins took Game 1 of the College World Series finals, 3-1.
The closest MSU’s faithful came to full roar was in the fourth inning, when the Bulldogs loaded the bases with two outs. They managed only one run, and Plutko reverted to his usual form.
In six-plus innings, Plutko allowed one run on four hits, walking one and hitting a batter. He retired the first 10 batters he faced.
It’s the kind of performance you’d expect from a seasoned junior, who was drafted in the 11th round by Cleveland earlier this month – and a lot of people thought that was low.
Entering Monday’s game, MSU had faced four freshmen starting pitchers in its five previous NCAA tournament games, and it had done very well against them.
It’s not that MSU didn’t get some good swings against Plutko, they just didn’t get enough, and it was just one of those games where the big hits wouldn’t drop. And leadoff man Adam Frazier, who entered the game hitting .400 this postseason, was 0 for 4 with three flyouts.
Fly balls are not MSU’s thing, but Plutko induced 11 flyouts. He got five groundball outs and two strikeouts.
As MSU coach John Cohen would say, the Bulldogs drifted away from their offensive identity. They finished with six hits, all of them singles, and hit into two double plays.
MSU has been great in late innings all season, with a pair of eighth-inning comeback wins here in Omaha.
Now, State needs a comeback game, or this season – which has been a great one – will be over.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.