After giving up two solo home runs in the first three innings of UCLA’s 6-2 win over TCU, ace Adam Plutko settled down to put four straight zeroes on the board.
With his pitch count at 105 in the eighth inning, UCLA coach John Savage turned to freshman walk-on David Berg in a nationally televised game with a trip to Omaha hanging in the balance.
Berg, a side-arm right-hander, set down the next three batters he faced. Savage gave him the ball again in the ninth. Three up, three down.
“He’s been a rock,” Savage said. “He gets the ball outing after outing and he’s the same guy. When they know what you’re going to do to them and you still do it, that’s a good sign.”
Berg’s line: Twenty-five pitches, four strikeouts, no hits.
As Savage said, you know what you’re going to get with Berg. So often this season that has been an untouchable sinking fastball and absolute consistency.
Berg broke UCLA and Pac-12 records for appearances with 45 and he’s thrown in 20 of the Bruins’ last 21 games.
The contrast of UCLA’s starters’ high heat to Berg’s sinker has kept teams off balance all season.
“It’s a pretty interesting dynamic,” Berg said. “A lot of our starters are fly-ball pitchers, so all of a sudden, I come in with that sinking fastball and get ground balls.”
Now, Berg and the Bruins are now a game away from Omaha, and if Savage sticks to the bullpen rotation that has won his team 46 games this season, Berg will continue to get innings.
“It helps because I know I’m going in and I’m not thinking about it,” Berg said. “You stick with what you’ve been doing.”