A couple of out-of-towners

From Omaha, Scott Rose brings you a great gamer of the Bruins’ 4-0 loss to Arizona in the College World Series, where Konner Wade simply dominated the UCLA lineup in a complete game shutout: UCLA baseball

From San Francisco, Jill Painter with the news that UCLA golfer Patrick Cantlay is considering a jump to the professional ranks after another successful major outing, this time finishing 2-over-par at the US Open on Sunday: UCLA golf

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UCLA keeps rolling, buries Stony Brook, 9-1

OMAHA, Neb. — Coming into Friday’s opening game of the College World Series, TD Ameritrade Park was buzzing about Stony Brook. The Seawolves are in Omaha for the first time and are just the second ever No. 4 regional seed to reach the Series.

Flecks of UCLA-blue dotted a sea of Stony-Brook-red in the stands. As a result of their opening opponent and consistent style of play, the Bruins are one of the least-talked-about No. 2 seeds the Series has seen in a while. After the first inning of an eventual 9-1 win for the Bruins, UCLA was the talk of Omaha.

“We kind of calmed things down, especially here in Omaha with the crowd,” junior center fielder Beau Amaral said. “We knew everybody was going to be rooting for (Stony Brook) and being able to take the crowd out of it early is a pretty big deal.

UCLA sophomore right-hander and ace of staff Adam Plutko zapped most of the energy out of the pro Stony Brook crowd in the top of the first by setting the Seawolves down in order, striking out two. UCLA’s offense finished the job in the bottom half by plating five runs on five hits against Stony Brook’s solid right-hander Tyler Johnson (Crespi).

Amaral led things off with a single up the middle, junior catcher Tyler Heineman gutted out an infield single, junior left fielder Cody Keefer walked, junior right fielder Jeff Gelalich singled to right, junior first baseman Trevor Brown singled up the middle and sophomore shortstop Pat Valaika laid down an RBI sacrifice bunt. Before Johnson had recorded two outs, he found himself in a 5-0 hole.

“That’s a very good lineup,” said Johnson who suffered just his second loss of the season. “They have a lot of left-handed guys too, A lot of good hitters. They’re here for a reason. I didn’t do a good job of throwing strikes.”

Johnson’s words could have been plucked from any other losing pitcher’s press conference who has faced UCLA in the playoffs. The No. 2 Bruins remain undefeated in the postseason and all of their wins have been similar.

It’s almost as if UCLA has found a formula for how to wear teams down: Getting at least solid innings from its starting pitcher, stringing timely, seeing-eye hits together and turning it over to the bullpen to close things out. Friday was no different as Plutko scattered five hits over seven innings, seven of UCLA’s position players had at least one hit and right-handed freshman reliever David Berg shut things down in the last two innings by not allowing a hit in seven batters faced.

“It was a typical Bruin win, really,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “Nothing fancy. No big home runs or anything like that. It was just more plate discipline. … We walked nine times, had nine hits, we played catch and we threw strikes. When you do those things, usually good things happen.”

It’s that grinding style of baseball that helped UCLA fly under the radar early in Omaha. Now, they have everyone’s attention but the formula will remain the same.

“Regardless of who we play, this group has been ready to play when the first pitch goes,” Savage said. “They did a great job. This was a great way to start the tournament.”

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Stony Brook takes over Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. — The Stony Brook Seawolves may be the first team from New York to make the College World Series since 1980 but they feel right at home in Omaha, Neb.

The Long Island university shares its name with a small neighborhood near 144th street in Omaha. Naturally, Stony Brook’s residents threw their support behind the Seawolves and the rest of Omaha followed. The Seawolves have garnered near celebrity status with the Nebraska locals because of their improbable postseason run.

At Friday’s opening game between UCLA and Stony Brook at TD Ameritrade Park – a 9-1 win for the Bruins – red shirts outnumbered blue shirts and Stony Brook’s adopted team motto “shock the world” could be seen on makeshift banners and t-shirts throughout the concourse. One merchandise vendor near the stadium said he had sold a disproportionate amount of Stony Brook gear to locals.

“My team isn’t here and Omaha is a college town,” said Nebraska fan and Omaha native Tony Huerta, who fit right in wearing a red Cornhuskers hat. “We’re not necessarily cheering against teams like UCLA but everyone loves the underdog.”

Added Steve Woodworth of Omaha: “They’re the newcomer. We’ve seen these other teams here before. It’s time to give someone else a chance.”

Stony Brook is an easy underdog to like as its program embodies the essence of a rags to riches story. Coach Matt Senk took over the program in 1991 when the Seawolves were playing in NCAA Division III. Twenty one years later, Senk has the Seawolves in their first College World Series as just the second No. 4 seed from a regional to get to Omaha.

The Seawolves have the second best batting average in the nation (.335) and they lead the country in wins. Like UCLA, they had seven players drafted in the MLB’s first-year player draft earlier this month including one in the supplemental first round, junior center fielder Travis Jankowski.

As for UCLA, despite being the No. 2 team in the country and the Series’ No. 2 national seed, Stony Brook’s Cinderella run has helped them fly under the radar. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Bruins as TCU went on a similar run during the Bruins last trip to Omaha in 2010. UCLA coach John Savage doesn’t seem to mind.

“If everyone is pulling for them, that’s what college baseball is all about,” Savage said in a press conference Thursday. “We’ll embrace it and go play.”

Local flavor

Stony Brook has four players on its roster from Southern California. Friday’s starter and right-handed ace of staff Tyler Johnson, sophomore outfielder Joshua Mason and sophomore outfielder Michael Hubbard each attended Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino while sophomore right hander Brandon McKnitt attended Bishop Amat High School in La Puente.

Rough outing

Johnson was removed in the top of the third inning after giving up seven earned runs on five hits and walking four. The seven runs surrendered by Johnson on Friday were the most he’s given up all season.

Solo shots

The only run UCLA starter Adam Plutko gave up during Friday’s game was a solo home run to Stony Brook’s senior catcher Pat Cantwell. The only runs Plutko has given up during the postseason have been solo home runs as he threw a complete-game shutout to beat Creighton 4-0 in regional play and threw seven innings in a 6-2 win over TCU in the Los Angeles super regional.

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UCLA v. Stony Brook lineups

OMAHA, Neb. — Here are your lineups for the opening game of the 2012 College World Series between UCLA and Omaha. As the lower seed, UCLA will be the home team. Clouds hang over TD Ameritrade Park but it doesn’t appear as though rain will threaten today’s game.

As is usually the case with opening games, we have a great pitching matchup between UCLA’s Adam Plutko (11-3, 2.56 ERA) and Stony Brook’s Tyler Johnson who went to Crespi High in Encino (12-1, 1.94 ERA). Johnson can go the distance as he’s thrown five complete games this season.

Stony Brook

6 CF Travis Jankowski
3 C Pat Cantwell
5 3B William Carmona
8 2B Maxx Tissenbaum
2 DH Kevin Krause
28 SS Cole Peragine
16 LF Steven Goldstein
25 1B Kevin Courtney
14 RF Sal Intagliata

44 RHP Tyler Johnson

UCLA

25 CF Beau Amaral
8 C Tyler Heineman
7 LF Cody Keefer
20 RF Jeff Gelalich
11 1B Trevor Brown
10 SS Pat Valaika
18 DH Cody Regis
3 3B Kevin Kramer
5 2B Kevin Williams

9 RHP Adam Plutko

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Bruins ready to tie the knot in Omaha

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.”

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