It’s game over for the Bulldogs.
After an undefeated run throughout the College World Series, Mississippi State fell for the first time in Omaha in Game 1 of the Championship Series to UCLA. While the Bulldogs still can come back to win back-to-back games, that seems unlikely after their performance from Monday night.
Mississippi State didn’t have much of answer for anyone who pitched for UCLA in Game 1. Adam Plutko threw six innings of one-run baseball while only allowing four hits. The right-hander also walked just one batter while striking out a pair.
Here’s what Aaron Fitt of Baseball America thought of UCLA’s starter’s performance:
Well, that was a thoroughly Plutko-nian outing: 6-plus innings, 4 H, 1 ER. Exits after a leadoff single in the 7th. Guy is a machine.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 25, 2013
Plutko is also fantastic at pitching to contact, as shown in another of Fitt’s tweets:
Three flyball outs for Plutko in the 6th—that's 11 flyball outs, 5 groundball outs through 6 innings of 3-hit ball. #CWS— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 25, 2013
James Kaprielian and Zack Weiss combined to throw 1.1 innings without giving up a hit. David Berg was a little shaky, but he threw 1.2 scoreless innings to pick up the save.
It was the first time in Omaha that the Bulldogs failed to plate at least four runs. They scored nine against Oregon State in a pair of games and scored five against Indiana. It was also the first time since May 11 where Mississippi State didn’t score at least two runs in a game.
Coming into the Championship Series, Mississippi State was only going to win if its offense overpowered UCLA’s pitching staff. While the two programs have only played nine innings against each other, it seems clear that that isn’t going happen in Game 2 (or in a title-deciding Game 3 if the Bulldogs were to win on Tuesday).
While Plutko is easily UCLA’s ace, Nick Vander Tuig is nearly just as good, and he’ll be on the mound for the Bruins in Game 2. He’s 13-4 on the year with a 2.31 ERA in 121 innings of work. He’s pretty much a clone of Plutko—only Vander Tuig has better command. He’s only walked 17 men all year long while Plutko has 30 walks.
Last time Vander Tuig pitched, he mowed down the NC State hitters, who were coming off an eight-run performance against the top team in the country, UNC. In that game, he threw seven innings while allowing one earned run on four hits. He also struck out six batters without walking anyone.
If the Bulldogs couldn’t get anything going against Plutko, they’re going to struggle when Vander Tuig takes the mound, too. As I wrote the other day, pitching is the catalyst for UCLA to win the title. The Bruins proved that statement true in Game 1 and they’re bound to do it again in Game 2.
What happens in Game 2?
The starting pitchers, relievers and closer are too good.
UCLA’s biggest weakness entering Monday was its offense, which has been abysmal all year long. But UCLA scored three runs, which is good for them. The Bruins are accustomed to scoring two or three runs and letting the pitching staff do most of the work. It’s worked during the regular season and it’s worked in the postseason.
The Bruins played small ball all night on offense to score three times and the pitching staff did what it does every single game.
In Game 1, UCLA looked like a national champion.
After Game 2, UCLA will be a national champion.