College World Series 2012: Players to Watch in UCLA vs FSU Elimination Game
Arizona is safe for the moment, but nobody else is.
After taking down UCLA 4-0 on Sunday, the Wildcats are off until their next game on Thursday, leaving the Bruins and the Seminoles fighting for the right to face them. As a result, either Florida State or UCLA heads home on Tuesday night.
It will be a heartbreaking loss for either side. If the Seminoles blow it, their loss will come on the heels of one of the highest highs of their season: beating Stony Brook, the 2012 College World Series' surprise darling. Just two days after suffering a crushing 4-3 extra innings loss to Arizona, the Seminoles bounced back with a big 12-2 win over a team that shockingly sent LSU home in the super regionals.
Meanwhile, the Bruins will endure some heartbreak of their own if they fail to come out on top of Tuesday's elimination game: They, like the Seminoles, are coming off a recent 4-0 defeat to Arizona, but theirs was their first loss in 11 games. If they make it an uncharacteristic two in a row, they're done for good.
Here's a look at the players to watch as FSU and UCLA battle it out on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
Beau Amaral, OF, UCLA
The center fielder served as a solid leadoff man for the Bruins this season, and he's been a durable component of this lineup for a long time: In three seasons with UCLA, he's started in 175 of 183 games.
A player with his experience proved invaluable in the Bruins' big 9-1 win over Stony Brook on Friday because it's hard to be the de facto bad guy when you're facing the underdog. Fortunately, he put it in perspective for his teammates. After the win, he told the Associated Press, "We knew everybody was going to be rooting for these guys and being able to take the crowd out of it early is a pretty big deal."
The Reds' seventh-round draft pick will have to tune out the crowd against FSU, too, but judging by his numbers, focusing isn't an issue for him. He entered the CWS hitting .313 with 45 RBIs and 62 runs scored. If the Seminoles let him get on base, they're in trouble.
Jayce Boyd, 1B, FSU
In the loss to Arizona, Boyd was a key part of an FSU rally that tied the game at 3 in the sixth inning. He legged out a grounder to the third baseman, whose throw pulled first baseman Brandon Dixon off the bag. Boyd eventually came around to score on John Holland's double.
Boyd has proven to be the kind of player who won't let his team give up until the end, even if the end result isn't exactly ideal. If he'd gotten frustrated after hitting that ball straight to third and hadn't hustled, that rally wouldn't have happened. And now, at least the team knows it can rally.
The junior entered the game hitting a team-high .389 with 59 RBIs, and coupled with James Ramsey, he presents a big problem for pitchers in the middle of the Seminoles' order.
David Berg, UCLA, P
Who wins for the right to face Arizona?
The Bruins have plenty of good pitching; against Arizona, it didn't pay off, but it has to against the Seminoles.
Against the Wildcats on Sunday, starter Nick Vander Tuig went 6 1/3 innings and allowed only one hit while fanning eight, but it wasn't enough because the Bruins weren't hitting anything off Wildcats starter Konner Wade.
Now, it could be up to David Berg to keep his team in the running for a CWS title, especially if the starter needs some middle-inning assistance. The walk-on has established himself as a middle relief specialist, getting into a conference record 47 games this season and leading the Pac-12 with a 1.58 ERA.
Durability hasn't been an issue for him, as he once appeared in 18 consecutive games for the Bruins. He gives UCLA some much-needed security in case the starter runs into early trouble against a hot-hitting Seminoles team that recently put up a 12-spot on Stony Brook.
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