Photos Courtesy of David Cohen.
FULLERTON, Calif. — When there’s a trip to the College World Series on the line, sometime all it takes is one strong inning. UCLA scored three runs in the first inning and rode it all the way to Omaha as the Bruins defeated Cal State Fullerton 3-0 Saturday night at Goodwin Field to take the Fullerton (CA) Super Regional.
The three runs were plenty for veteran starter Nick Vander Tuig, who picked up his 12th win of the season after pitching out of jams for 6 1/3 innings.
Cal State Fullerton gave UCLA extra opportunities in the first inning and the Bruins took full advantage. After two quick outs, Carlos Lopez booted a routine groundball at first base. Pat Valaika got an infield single off the glove of Matt Chapman. Chapman then sailed a throw on a chopper, pulling Lopez off the bag and loading the bases.
Pat Gallagher continued his hot postseason run knocking a two-run single to centerfield. The Titans had a potential play at the plate, but Michael Lorenzen’s strong throw hit off the end of catcher Chad Wallach’s glove as he started to go for a tag of Valaika. Shane Zeile followed with another single to centerfield. The Bruins elected not to test Lorenzen again, but the single brought in a runner from third, making it 3-0.
While UCLA made the most of its chances, it was a game of missed opportunities for Cal State Fullerton. The Titans stranded 12 runners with 11 of those coming while Chapman and freshman Jake Jefferies were at the dish.
The Titans put two runners on in the second and fourth innings, but Jefferies popped out in the second and struck out with runners on second and third in the fourth.
In the sixth inning, J.D. Davis led off with a double down the left field line, but Vander Tuig stranded him at third, getting Wallach to pop out to end the inning.
Vander Tuig finished after 6 1/3 innings. He pitched out of every sign of trouble, scattering eight hits and not walking a single batter. He struck out four Titans.
After Vander Tuig departed in the seventh inning, Fullerton got a pair of runners into scoring position again, but Chapman flied out to centerfield to stymie the threat.
Jefferies had a shot at redemption in the eighth inning. He came to the plate after Zack Weiss allowed two singles. UCLA went to All-American closer David Berg, who got Jefferies to bounce out to shortstop to once again keep the Titans scoreless.
Berg pitched the ninth inning to collect his 21st save of the season and after he got Chapman to ground out to end it, Berg was tackled by catcher Shane Zeile to start the dogpile atop the Goodwin Field pitcher’s mound.
Fullerton starter Thomas Eshelman took a tough loss as all three runs in the first inning were unearned. The freshman pitched his second career complete game, allowing six hits and one walk, but no earned runs.
Check out the 15-shot photo gallery by David Cohen of BHE Photos of the action in Saturday’s Fullerton (CA) Super Regional opener: