OMAHA, NEBRASKA — UCLA broke a 1-1 tie when Eric Filia’s two-out ground ball in the top of the eighth inning was misplayed, allowing the go-ahead run to score and the Bruins went on to defeat top-ranked LSU, 2-1, in the opening round of the College World Series on Sunday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Tigers (57-10) saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time in this NCAA postseason. LSU now faces North Carolina (57-11) in an elimination game at 2 p.m. CT Tuesday on ESPN. The Tar Heels fell by a score of 8-1 to North Carolina State in the first game on Sunday. LSU will be the home team against UNC after winning a coin flip.
UCLA (45-17) held an LSU team batting .308 on the season to just five hits. The Bruins advanced to the winner’s bracket and will play North Carolina State at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday on ESPN.
“It was a tough, tough loss that’s for sure,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “There’s nothing but great teams in this tournament and very little margin for error. We’ve got to play a little bit better. I think all of our players would probably tell you that we didn’t play as well as we could tonight. All the credit in the world goes to UCLA. They put pressure on us.”
Right fielder Mark Laird continued his hot hitting in NCAA Tournament play with two hits and his seventh double of the year. First baseman Mason Katz provided the first homer of this year’s CWS with a solo shot in the fourth. LSU starter Aaron Nola (12-1) suffered his first loss of the year in a tough-luck decision, allowing both runs – none of which were earned – on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Nola has not allowed an earned run in 26.2 consecutive innings dating back to the May 23 Arkansas contest in the SEC Tournament. It was Nola’s first loss since May 18, 2012 at South Carolina.
UCLA starter Adam Plutko (9-3) held the Tigers to just four hits and one run while walking two and striking out two. Plutko did not allow a leadoff hitter to reach base.
Katz broke the scoreless pitcher’s duel in the fourth when he launched a one-out, solo home run – his 16th of the season – into the left field bullpen. It represented the first homer of the 2012 CWS and his second homer of this NCAA postseason.
In the sixth, UCLA centerfielder Brian Carroll dropped a leadoff bunt and catcher Ty Ross’ errant throw sailed into right field allowing him to reach second. Two batters later, he scored on Filia’s deep sacrifice fly to tie the game at one apiece.
The Bruins benefited from another unearned run in the eighth to take the lead for good when shortstop Alex Bregman misplayed Filia’s grounder with two outs that allowed pinch runner Christoph Bono to score from third.
Trailing 2-1, LSU had one last chance in the ninth with runners at first and second and two outs against UCLA’s David Berg. After Raph Rhymes grounded into a double play, third baseman Christian Ibarra drew a walk and pinch hitter Tyler Moore continued his clutch hitting with a single to center. Second baseman JaCoby Jones worked a 3-1 count before popping out to shallow right field to end the game.
“They slapped the ball on the ground and forced us to make a couple of plays and we just came up empty on those plays,” said Mainieri. “We’ve got to just go back to playing good fundamental baseball. We get another chance to play on Tuesday, and we’ll get ready to do that.”