Regis delivers for UCLA after difficult week
June, 8, 2012
By Peter Yoon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireBrenton Allen (23) scores as teammates Trevor Brown, left, and Jeff Gelalich welcome him home.
LOS ANGELES -- The primal scream Cody Regis let out when he reached second base told you all you need to know about the kind of week he has had.
Regis brought his roller-coaster week to a high when he cleared the bases with a three-run double in the sixth inning of UCLA's 6-2 super regional victory over Texas Christian on Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium. His clutch hit helped get the Bruins to within one victory of a return trip to the College World Series, so yeah, Regis was excited.
But the raw emotion he let out came from much deeper than giving his team a comfortable lead that starting pitcher Adam Plutko and reliever David Berg easily made stand up. Regis had a week's worth of pent up frustration because the Major League Baseball draft came and went without his name being called.
[CLICK HERE TO SEE GAME 1 HIGHLIGHTS]
Regis, a junior first baseman with a .284 career batting average, 16 home runs and now 117 RBIs, took that as a personal slight and then took it out on TCU.
"It was a bitter pill to swallow," Regis said. "It was really hard. It was disappointing for me, but it kind of motivated me a little bit. It put a chip on my shoulder."
Things looked grim for UCLA (46-14) as Texas Christian (40-21) took a 2-1 lead on solo home runs by Josh Elander in the first and Kyle Van Tungeln in the third, and TCU pitcher Brandon Finnegan had retired 10 consecutive Bruins after Kevin Kramer's two-out RBI single in the second inning.
But Tyler Heineman drew a walk to start the sixth, and two TCU pitchers loaded the bases by hitting Cody Keefer and Jeff Gelalich with pitches. Trevor Brown tied the score at 2 with a single, and Pat Valaika gave UCLA a 3-2 lead with a run-scoring groundout.
An intentional walk to Brenton Allen loaded the bases again and set the stage for Regis. On his 21st birthday, he delivered a three-run present to the Bruins by blasting a liner that skipped through the gap in left-center field, hit off the wall and propelled UCLA to a Game 1 victory in the best-of-three super regional.
"When I made contact, I knew I got it well," Regis said. "And when the play was finally over, the adrenaline really hit. I got to second and the emotion of everything just overcame me and I just let it go."
Regis is no stranger to postseason heroics. He earned all-tournament honors at the 2010 College World Series after batting .280 with a home run, a double and five RBIs in Omaha that season. He hit five postseason home runs in all that season as the Bruins advanced to the national championship series.
This year was a bit of a struggle, however. Knowing that he was draft eligible as a junior, he was batting .253 with only one home run and 22 RBIs going into Friday's game.
"He’s put pressure on himself," coach John Savage said. "It’s junior-itis. Draft-itis a lot of times. A lot of guys go through that, but the last 20 games, I’ve seen better at-bats."
Savage said it was a good sign to see Regis, one of UCLA's all-time leaders in postseason appearances, hit the clutch double Friday.
"When he hit that ball, it was very similar to the guy we know," Savage said. "He stayed with it. A great teammate, a great Bruin and we need him at this time of the year. He’s an experienced guy and he showed that tonight."
Before Regis' big hit, Plutko had been the story. He was a little off early in the game, giving up those two solo home runs and a couple of other hard-hit balls. He got into a jam with runners at first and one out in the fourth inning, but used a fake-to-third, throw-to-first move to pick off Derek Odell at first.
After that, he settled in, and got five popouts and three strikeouts over the next three innings -- a sign that he's on top of his game. He went seven innings, and gave up seven hits and two runs with seven strikeouts before Berg closed it out with two perfect innings with four strikeouts.
Plutko, who pitched a two-hitter last week in a regional game against Creighton, has developed into quite a big-game pitcher for the Bruins. Last season, he gave up only one hit in seven scoreless innings of an elimination game of the regionals against San Francisco to get the win. In his postseason career, Plutko is 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA and has allowed only 10 hits in 23 innings with 20 strikeouts.
"My mentality is to not do too much," Plutko said of his postseason success. "The easy thing is to try and be nastier than Justin Verlander ... when all you have to do is be yourself. That’s really what our whole team has to do."
If the Bruins continue to do so, they'll be on their way back to Omaha. And that just might be cause for another primal scream from Regis and the rest of his teammates.