UCLA opened the College World Series with a 9-1 victory over Stony Brook on Friday in Omaha, Neb. Here's a quick look at the game:
OVERVIEW: The College World Series opener couldn't have gotten off to a better start for UCLA (48-14), which struck for five runs in the first inning against Stony Brook ace Tyler Johnson (12-2). UCLA would tag Johnson for two more in the third and chase him after 2 1/3 innings -- his shortest outing of the season. The five runs in the first equaled the most Johnson had given up in a game this season.
UCLA used the same formula it has used all season in putting away the Seawolves (52-14). The Bruins got their nine runs with only two extra-base hits. They generated most of their offense with singles, walks, hit batters and sacrifices. A two-run double to center field by Kevin Williams in the third was the only "big" hit for the Bruins, who had seven players score their nine runs.
Adam Plutko (12-3) pitched seven solid innings, Jeff Gelalich and Williams each drove in two runs, and reliever David Berg pitched two hitless innings to close out the game.
TURNING POINT: In the top of the second, after UCLA had taken a 5-0 lead, Stony Brook made a push to get back in the game by loading the bases with one out. Plutko pitched out of the jam by getting a strikeout and a popout, and deflated the Seawolves.
Stony Brook had another threat going in the fifth with runners at second and third with nobody out, but again failed to score thanks to an unusual double play in which first baseman Trevor Brown fielded a grounder, stepped on first and then fired home to get Kevin Courtney attempting to score on the play.
But really the turning point came in the bottom of the first when Beau Amaral led off with a single, Tyler Heineman beat out a chopper to shortstop for an infield single and Cody Keefer walked to load the bases. Gelalich followed with a two-run single for all the runs UCLA pitchers would need.
UCLA STAR OF THE GAME: Plutko continued his postseason dominance by giving up only one run on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in seven innings. He improved to 3-0 this postseason and 4-0 for his postseason career, tying Trevor Bauer for most postseason wins in UCLA history.
He was not quite dominant Friday against Stony Brook but made clutch pitches in key situations as Stony Brook went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. And limiting Stony Brook to five hits is no small feat. The Seawolves entered the College World Series with a national-best 731 hits and sitting second in the nation with a .335 team batting average. They had 35 hits in their three-game super regional against Louisiana State.
This postseason, Plutko has given up only three earned runs and 14 hits in 23 innings (1.17 ERA). All three runs scored against him in the postseason have come on solo home runs.
STAT OF THE GAME: Stony Brook's 1-2-3 batters -- Travis Jankowski, Pat Cantwell and William Carmona -- combined to go 1-for-12 in the game. Cantwell's solo home run in the third inning was the only hit for Stony Brook's top three, all of whom were picked in the Major League Baseball draft.
Jankowski, the leadoff hitter and first-round pick of the Padres, entered the game fifth in the nation with a .422 batting average, but he led off the first, third and eighth innings by making an out, and grounded into the unusual double play that effectively ended a Stony Brook rally in the fifth.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Bruins advance to the winner's bracket and will meet the winner of Friday night's Arizona-Florida State game Sunday at 6 p.m. PT. The victory serves as a confidence booster that UCLA's small-ball approach can indeed win games in Omaha and means the Bruins avoided the trap of an opening game against the Cinderella team of the tournament.