OMAHA, Neb. — John Savage and his UCLA team have a few well-worn phrases.
Among them: execution, pass the baton, Bruin baseball. After three trips to Omaha in four years, they can add “championship” to the vocabulary.
There is utility in cliche. UCLA raised its first-ever national championship trophy Tuesday night after an 8-0 win over Mississippi State, embodying all those phrases on a run marked by stunning consistency.
In all five of their victories at TD Ameritrade Park, the Bruins (49-17) allowed no more than a single run. Along they way, they laid down 12 bunts, tying a CWS record set by Santa Clara in 1962. It was small ball at its finest, the prize at the end perhaps silencing protests that UCLA had lucked its way to wins.
“Anybody that questions us now, I don’t think knows the game,” Savage said.
As usual, the Bruins jumped on mistakes. Just two at-bats into the game, Mississippi State (51-20) notched two errors on one play: the first when pitcher Luis Pollorena misplayed Kevin Kramer’s bunt, and the second when first baseman Wes Rea couldn’t hold on to the ensuing throw.
Only two of UCLA’s postseason opponents avoided making at least one error.
Leadoff hitter Brian Carroll, who had reached first base when plunked by Pollorena’s fourth pitch, ran to third as the ball bounced off Rea’s glove.
Right fielder Eric Filia then sent an RBI single into the right field corner, giving the Bruins’ a 1-0 lead it never lost.
In a College World Series that drew frequent complaints its lack of power hitting, Filia shined as his team’s hottest bat. He finished the game with five RBI, bringing his postseason total to 11. A major reason for the Bruins’ run, 20 of his 33 RBI on the season came after the start of May.
UCLA sprinkled seven more runs through the rest of the game, forcing the Bulldogs to use All-SEC closer Jonathan Holder in the fourth inning. The final eight-run tally was the team’s highest since mid-May.
“We stayed small, barrelled balls up,” Filia said.
The team was again steady on the mound. Starter Nick Vander Tuig opened the game with two strikeouts — 89 and 91 miles per hour — and wavered little from there, tossing two perfect innings. The San Francisco Giants’ sixth-round draft pick shut out the Bulldogs through eight, striking out six as he walked just one batter.
He worked his curveball with great command, and threw strikes on 77 of his 117 pitches.
It was a run-of-the-mill showing for the junior righty, who earned his 14th victory of the season to lead the Bruins’ staff. In his previous outing against North Carolina State, he retired 13 of 14 batters in a sterling start that stretched into the eighth.
“I’m really at a loss for words,” he said after the game. “What was the question?”
Even before UCLA finished its last at-bat in the bottom of the eighth, all 27,127 in the stands — a new stadium record — knew the game was over. As if to signal that ending, three blonde women ran into the outfield, drawing light applause from the stands and the dugout.
By the time closer David Berg took the mound in the ninth, a win was almost a formality. He used just 11 pitches to close the game.