John Savage may have a grand strategy for the UCLA baseball team, and he may be the mastermind behind two brilliant seasons in three years, but he unequivocally had no hand in the construction of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
It only seems that way.
The Bruins head to the College World Series looking to seal the deal two years after South Carolina sealed their fate.
This time, they head not to the hitter’s haven that was Rosenblatt Stadium, but to the pitcher-friendly confines of the new ballpark, which hosted the CWS for the first time last year.
With a deep pitching staff and an opportunistic lineup ready for a crack at Stony Brook – which became the second regional No. 4 seed to advance to the College World Series – UCLA is looking forward to the new digs.
“I’ve heard the stadium is definitely a pitcher’s park,” sophomore starting pitcher Nick Vander Tuig said. “Most of the staff is fly-ball pitchers, so it’ll work to our advantage. We need to stick to our approach, make our pitches. We’ve been talking a lot as a team and a staff, and we’re ready.”
In Stony Brook, the Bruins are facing one of the hottest teams in college baseball, winners of 38-of-43, including back-to-back season-saving wins over six-time national champion LSU in the Superregionals. With a lineup loaded with able bats – and a little local flavor, as three of the 28 Seawolves hail from Crespi High – Stony Brook will be looking to prove it is not just the latest Cinderella.
“Stony Brook played extremely well and they won over 50 games,” Savage said. “They’ve proven they belong. There’s no doubt about that. No question about that. I have a ton of respect for what they’ve done.”
The Bruins, meanwhile, are just trying to settle some unfinished business.
Two years after UCLA’s honeymoon dreams vanished in the blink of a South Carolina walk-off single, the Bruins are ready to get hitched.
A clean sweep of the NCAA regional tournament, three wins by a combined score of 23-6, that was the team’s bachelor party, all fun and games.
A methodical disposing of TCU in the Superregionals was the rehearsal dinner, a serious affair, completed with meticulous detail and an eye toward the big prize.
Once more, the Bruins head to the College World Series, two years after a program-best run that took them all the way to the I-do’s, when South Carolina suddenly said I don’t.
Now, UCLA is playing for keeps.
“You’ve got to have a little bit of that,” Savage said. “You have to balance that. This is a new team, this is a new ballpark, this is a new tournament, this is a new season. But at the same time, we got left at the altar last time.”