OMAHA, Neb. —
Rea said he’s followed the Bruins from afar and is impressed with how they do things.
“They know how to win,” he said. “That is how you get here. It’s going to be a tremendous series. I have a lot of respect for those guys, and may the best man win.”
Pitching and defense have been UCLA’s identity since ninth-year coach John Savage took over. Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, the Nos. 1 and 3 draft picks in 2011, led the Bruins to the 2010 finals, where they were swept by South Carolina.
Plutko and Vander Tuig and Berg, the National Stopper of the Year, have led the Bruins to their third CWS appearance in four years. For Savage, it’s validation for his pitching-and-defense mantra.
“We don’t have the physicalness, as I look at it, of the Southeastern Conference,” Savage said. “Sometimes I’ll look out there when we’re stretching and go, ‘Oh, God.’ It’s not a real physical-looking team. But they’re baseball players. We have talent. It’s just a little different way of creating a team.”
It would seem to be a smart way to go nowadays, given the way the bats have been dialed down to perform more like wood.
“You have to bob and weave and make adjustments in this game,” Savage said. “Rather than sit there and complain about (how) bat manufacturers are making them and size of the ballpark... Come, on, we keep on talking about certain things. It gets back down to good teams and good players.”
The Bruins have scored three or fewer runs in 29 of their 64 games, including in three of their last four.
They’re batting .182 in the CWS, with only two of their 16 hits going for extra bases.
UCLA has backed its outstanding pitching in Omaha by committing a total of one error in wins over LSU, North Carolina State and North Carolina.