Creighton came streaking into Sunday’s final game of the Los Angeles regional against UCLA.
After losing to the No. 1-seeded Bruins on Friday, the No. 4 seed Bluejays eliminated No. 2 seed San Diego and No. 3 seed New Mexico. Creighton jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, marking the first time UCLA had trailed all weekend.
As panic began to set in with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, UCLA junior right fielder Jeff Gelalich sent a two-run home run into the right field batting cage at Jackie Robinson Stadium to draw the No. 2 Bruins level. They would go on to win 13-5 to advance to a super regional to be played next weekend.
“The momentum shifted in their favor after the first,” Creighton senior catcher Anthony Bemboom said.
UCLA comes out of the weekend undefeated, beating Creighton 3-0 on Friday and New Mexico 7-1 on Saturday. The Bruins will host a super regional against the winner of the College Station regional final game today between Mississippi and Texas Christian.
Starting pitching carried No. 2 UCLA (44-14) through the first two days of the regional as sophomore right hander Adam Plutko threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout against Creighton (28-30) on Friday and sophomore right hander Nick Vander Tuig gave up just one hit in eight innings on Saturday.
Sunday, it was UCLA’s offense leading the way as right handed sophomore starter Zack Weiss struggled to get through five innings. Gelalich – who leads the team in home runs with 11 – would homer again in the fifth inning. Junior second baseman Trevor Brown and sophomore shortstop Pat Valaika also finished with two runs batted in.
UCLA coach John Savage didn’t shy away from comparing this year’s team to 2010’s, the last Bruins team to make it to Omaha.
“This team is just as good as that team,” Savage said. “They’re basically the same players but two years older. They’ve grown up and played a lot of postseason baseball. There are some comparisons but we’ve finding a different way of doing it.”
Last season’s UCLA team was beaten in the regional final in large part because of a lack of timely hitting a problem that followed the Bruins throughout last season. This year, UCLA ranks in the top 20 in both batting average (.309) and on-base percentage (.396).
“This is the time of the year that we want to be playing our best baseball,” junior second baseman Trevor Brown said.
Creighton eliminates New Mexico
In the first game of the day, No. 4 seed Creighton eliminated No. 3 seed New Mexico, 7-2.
The Bluejays didn’t waste any time in dismantling the Lobos sophomore right hander Josh Walker, posting five hits and three runs in the bottom of the first inning on a three-run home run from Bemboom.
New Mexico ends its season with a record of 37-24. After winning a share of the Mountain West Conference’s regular season championship as well as the conference tournament, the Lobos beat No. 2 seed San Diego on Friday before losing to No. 1 seed UCLA on Saturday.
New Mexico’s offensive firepower was thought to be one of the more interesting aspects of the Los Angeles regional but its bats could only muster four total hits in its final two games.