A little sneak preview of future glory might just have prepared Adam Plutko for a return trip to Omaha.
Plutko headed to the Midwest along with his father, Gary, to watch the UCLA baseball team compete in the 2010 College World Series after his senior year at Glendora High.
After home runs by high school teammates Cody Regis in the regionals and super regionals, they just had to go be a part of it.
Not yet in college but already bleeding Bruin blue – he committed to UCLA as a sophomore in high school, don’t forget – he took in the sights and sounds of one of the great spectacles of college sport. He watched Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, his two future mentors, mow down batter after batter. He soaked in the scene as the Bruins checked off accomplishment after accomplishment. He shared in their disappointment when they lost in the championship series to South Carolina.
But most of all, he readied himself to be on the big stage himself.
After his performance on Friday – a seven-hit, seven-strikeout effort in a 6-2 UCLA win over TCU in College World Series Super Regionals at Jackie Robinson Stadium – he and the Bruins are one step away.
“My dad looked at me and said we gotta go,” Plutko said. “We took the first flight we could. It was just so phenomenal being out there. It’s the only place on earth like that.”
Plutko did not master the Horned Frogs with the same ruthless efficiency he displayed against Creighton in a 3-0 two-hitter over the Bluejays in the regionals last Saturday, but aside from a pair of early inning hiccups, he was able to bide his time until the Bruin bats exploded in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Plutko allowed solo home runs to Josh Elander and Kyle Von Tungeln in the first and third innings, respectively, but limited the damage, scattering five hits while staying out of trouble before giving way to UCLA reliever David Berg after an Elander single in the top of the eighth.
By then the Bruins lead by four, thanks to one huge sixth inning.
First, UCLA’s loaded the bases to open the inning by way of TCU wildness – a walk and two hit batters – and Trevor Brown stroked a single into centerfield to score Tyler Heineman, tying the game.
Three batters later, Cody Regis strolled to the plate once more with the bases loaded and the Bruin junior fried the Horned Frogs just as he did two years ago.
Then, he was a freshman batting .500 with four RBIs against TCU in the College World Series tournament in Omaha, when the Bruins beat the Horned Frogs three times in six days.
Now, he delivered with a bases-clearing double to put UCLA ahead for good.
“I talked to coach (Rex) Peters before that bat and he basically he said (TCU pitcher Justin Scharf) likes to work down away in the zone,” Regis said. “We’re somewhat familiar with them – obviously not same team – but having that in back of your mind it gives you confidence going into it.”