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College World Series 2012: Expect UCLA to Cruise Through Bracket 1

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2012

Photo via collegebaseballdaily.com
Photo via collegebaseballdaily.com

The UCLA Bruins will be major league choke artists if they don’t emerge from Bracket 1 victorious this weekend at the College World Series in Omaha.

The No. 1 ranked team in the NCAA Baseball RPI standings has landed the easiest possible first-game opponent in Stony Brook.

(Click here for Bracket 1 and 2 TV schedule)

The 86 th-ranked RPI team was in Division III as recently as just over a decade ago and is the feel-good story of the tournament (along with Kent State), but the Bruins have entirely too much talent to drop the game.

They enter Friday night’s matchup against Stony Brook (5:00 p.m. ET) riding a nine-game winning streak that includes an impressive 5-0 record in the postseason. This is their second appearance in three years, after reaching the championship series in 2010.

Expect a Game 1 romp.

The beauty of this Bruins team is the depth. They have five players hitting over .300, led by the deadly Jeff Gelalich. He has hit .365 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI this season as the leader of this team.

Photo via ESPN.com
Photo via ESPN.com
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They are relentless in forcing pitchers to nibble around the corners in fear of leaving something out over the plate. They love to work deep counts and have sound plate discipline, a credit to coach John Savage, who is one of the best in the sport.

The pitching staff had some serious holes to fill this season, but hasn’t missed a beat behind starters Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig. Both players have at least 10 wins and Plitko’s 2.56 ERA in the Pac 12 is rather remarkable.

The bullpen is strong as well, rounding out the most complete team in the entire College World Series.

As for their bracket, the one contender to knock off UCLA would be Florida State. With Stony Brook just happy to be here and Arizona featuring a star in Kurt Heyer and not a whole lot else, the Seminoles and their potent lineup are going to be the one thing that stands in UCLA’s way.

The Florida State offense is led by NCBWA first-team All-American James Ramsey (.382 average, 13 home runs) and second-teamer Jayce Boyd (.389 average), who are some of the top players in all of the country.

The Bruins don’t want to be trailing in late innings with Seminoles closer Robert Benincasa lurking. The first-team All-American struck out 51 in 36 innings and sported a 1.25 ERA.

Yet the lineup has multiple holes, and the pitching staff has struggled thus far in the postseason. If they fall behind by multiple runs early, I don’t see them coming back against the stellar staff of the Bruins.

LA is still basking in the glory of the Kings unbelievable run to the Stanley Cup, and the Dodgers look like the team to beat in the NL West. Now it’s time to pay attention to the Bruins, who are poised for a deep run in college baseball’s biggest event.  

Prediction: UCLA Wins Bracket 1

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