LOS ANGELES — This wasn’t Adam Plutko at his sharpest.
A three-time all-conference selection, his best doesn’t include mishandling a bunt or hitting a batter on a 0-2 count. But the right-handed hurler never broke as he secured his fifth postseason win in a gutsy effort.
His solid, if unspectacular, outing Friday sufficed as he guided UCLA to a regional-opening 5-3 victory over San Diego State. The Bruins have now moved into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, with a 6 p.m. matchup against Cal Poly looming Saturday.
Along the way, Plutko became the school’s all-time postseason wins leader — passing former Golden Spikes winner and No. 3 draft pick Trevor Bauer.
The 6-foot-3 junior took the mound at Jackie Robinson Stadium with a 4-0 record and 0.88 ERA in the postseason. He got himself out of jams throughout the game, including some timely strikeouts and a pickoff of catcher Jake Romanski to end the second inning.
“He made some big pitches in big spots,” said Romanski, who batted 2-for-4 with a home run. “He’s a location guy. He’s not overpowering, but he made big pitches and that was pretty much the difference.”
Added UCLA coach John Savage: “He’s had one of the best careers of any Bruin that’s ever pitched here.”
The Bruins, who entered the weekend as the Pac-12’s weakest-hitting team, got their share of lucky bounces. In the fourth inning, shortstop Pat Valaika singled when the ball struck first base and flew high into the air.
Immediately after that, catcher Shane Zeile’s grounder took a hop right as Aztecs shortstop Evan Potter tried to make a play. Both runners soon scored. The Bruins, tied just minutes earlier, finished the fourth with a 4-1 lead.
“We were fortunate,” Savage said. “You’ve got to be lucky at times. Certainly, that inning, there were a few balls where we were pretty fortunate.”
UCLA closer David Berg had a three-run cushion going into the ninth, but gave up two doubles and a run. With nearly the entire audience on its feet — official attendance 1,690 — the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year got the final out in dramatic fashion: a looking strikeout of Danny Sheehan on a 3-2 pitch.
Cal Poly blows out San Diego
Having the country’s best player didn’t help San Diego much in its regional opener against Cal Poly.
The Mustangs dispatched the Toreros easily in a 9-2 blowout, a game that saw the hard-hitting Kris Bryant do little against righty Joey Wagman. The National Player of the Year entered the game with a nation-best 31 home runs, but ended the game 0-for-3: lineout, walk, strikeout, flyout.
“He threw four pitches,” Bryant said of Wagner, who allowed one earned run in eight innings. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that he was commanding all of them, but he made all of them look like a strike. … You don’t see too many right-handers with a changeup, so he had it all going tonight. You’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Cal Poly broke the game open with a six-run outburst in the sixth inning, handing San Diego’s freshman pitcher P.J. Conlon (9-1) the first loss of his career.