By Eric Olson
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — UCLA coach John Savage says it’s about time for Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig to get their due.
The Bruins’ formidable 1-2 pitching combo doesn’t receive the same fanfare Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer did a couple of years ago. Few do. After all, Cole was taken No. 1 overall in the major league draft and Bauer No. 3.
The star of the UCLA staff is side-arming reliever David Berg, who was Pac-12 pitcher of the year, first-team All-America and Stopper of the Year.
But Plutko and Vander Tuig, who aren’t even third-team All-Americans, have been hard to miss at the College World Series. Each allowed one run on four hits in seven innings in 2-1 victories, with Plutko doing it against LSU on Sunday and Vander Tuig against North Carolina State on Tuesday.
“I really think they’re two of the most underrated players in the country, and I think they’re showing that right now,” UCLA coach John Savage said.
Plutko (9-3, 2.29 ERA) is in his third year as a starter and in his second as the Bruins’ No. 1. Vander Tuig (13-4, 2.31) was the Bruins’ closer as a freshman and has been starting for two years.
Plutko is more consistent than overwhelming with a fastball in the high 80s to low 90s. He was disappointed when he slipped to the 11th round in the recent draft, where he was selected by the Cleveland Indians.
Vander Tuig came back from Tommy John surgery in high school to become the San Francisco Giants’ sixth-round pick. He touches the low 90s with his fastball and possesses a wicked changeup.
“I really kind of look at them almost like professionals right now in the sense that their work habits in between starts, their conditioning, their throwing programs, their bullpens — they’re well-schooled. We would never be in the position we are without those two guys.”
UCLA is in control of its bracket. The Bruins need a win over North Carolina or North Carolina State on Friday night to reach next week’s finals. If they lose Friday, they would play a rematch Saturday, with the winner advancing to the finals. Savage has not announced his pitching plans, though Grant Watson (8-3) is next in line.