College World Series Gameday: TCU (53-13) vs. UCLA (50-14) …
Coming into the game between UCLA and TCU, a close inspection of the team stat page in each program’s media guide revealed some interesting data.
The number six and the sixth inning would be an important run total and a pivotal inning for both teams, in determining who was going to win the epic matchup involving two programs loaded with pitching depth.
UCLA has piled up some impressive statistics, most impressive (other than the 50-14 record with a program-best 22-game win streak to start the season) is the PAC-10 season strikeout record in which the Bruins logged 665 punchouts in 582 innings (10.3 ’s per 9-inning game).
Equally impressive is limiting the opponent batting average to .217 and the fact that the offense has jumped into high gear, hitting .311 in eight postseason games this month.
At 50-14 overall, the Bruins sport a 21-4 record on the road, 8-3 in 1-run games and 4-0 in extra inning affairs. Overall, the quality pitching depth has limited opponents in 2010 to 0-2 runs in 30 ballgames (UCLA is 29-1 in those games).
With all these impressive stats running rampant in the media guide, it is rather hard to find a chink in the Bruin armor.
But a closer examination reveals that the Bruins are only 9-7 when the opponent scores in the first inning, which TCU did on Friday afternoon when Taylor Featherston drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk when UCLA starter Rob Rasmussen struggled with his command.
When UCLA scores in the first inning, they are 22-3 … but they drew a blank tonight in Omaha during the opening frame. Advantage TCU!
Furthermore, when trailing after six innings UCLA is 3-11, but when leading they are 43-1. So when the Bruins began the top of the 7th inning trailing 3-1, you can bet your bottom dollar the west-coasters were in a tight fix given the few statistical numbers that have not worked in their favor this season (although they did stage a memorable late-inning rally to beat Cal State Fullerton in the Super-Regional round).
Cody Regis started the 7th inning with a drag-bunt single on the first pitch, and a pitch later Joe Giovinnazo hit a high-chop grounder to third to advance Regis (iovinnazo was out on the play). Trevor Brown entered the game to pinch-hit for Uribe, a rather odd move considering Uribe is hitting .329 on the year while Brown is hitting .296, but Coach John Savage wanted a better right-left matcup versus the taltented LHP Matt Purke (Uribe swings lefthanded).
Working the count full at 3-2, Brown drew a walk, finally running the TCU All-American Purke from the game and setting up runners at 1st and 2nd with one out.
The pitching change called upon another decision by Savage and he chose lefthanded hitter Jeff Gelalich to hit for Krill, for the same reason as the Uribe-Brown scenario as the new TCU pitcher Tyler Lockwood is a veteran righthander.
When Gelalich grounded a ball to third base, only his foot speed prevented the Frogs from turning a double play ball to get out of the inning (his speed also would come in handy two batters later).
Steve Rodriguez then walked to load the bases, which brought up leadoff hitter Niko Gallego, who hit a high chopper to third base and once again the speed of Gelalich beat the race to the bag (prolonging the inning). The Bruins had cut the lead to 3-2, but Beau Amaral struckout in a key at-bat as the Bruins left three runners on base and swam upstream against the statistics all evening long.
UCLA’s chance to defy the statistical trend faded, as the Bruins now are 5-14 and 4-15 when trailing after the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. They will need to limit TCU from scoring in the 1st inning tomorrow and likely must hold TCU to 0-5 runs to enhance their oddes at victory.
In the bottom of the inning, Matt Curry – who hit the thrilling gamewinning grand slam versus Florida State two nights ago – singled to right and Jantzen Witte bunted Corry to second. Hot-hitting Taylor Featherston then hit a towering home run into the leftfield bleachers to extend the lead to 5-2. An inning later, Bryan Holaday hit his 16th home run of the season (TCU’s 99th long ball of the season) to slam the door on the Bruins at 6-2.
With each team now beating the other in Bracket #1, the third and decisive game of the head-to-head series will be decided tomorrow afternoon at either 1 p.m. or 6 p.m (depending on the outcome of the Clemson – South Carolina ballgame this evening). If Clemson wins, they will clinch a championship series berth and if South Carolina wins, it forces a game-3 doubleheader tomorrow for both brackets (first game at 1:00 p.m. and the second to begin 50 minutes following the completion of TCU vs UCLA).
UCLA Postgame Comments:
Coach John Savage:
“It was one of those days. … You have to give Matt Purke and TCU a ton of credit. I thought he did a good job of pounding the zone … seemed like we were swimming upstream all day. Credit Lockwood as well. We just have to make sure there is no residue tomorrow. We will go with [Trevor] Bauer. We had a misstep today, but give a lot of credit to TCU.
“I thought Rob [Rasmussen] did fine. He had some tough luck defensively. It seemed like we couldn’t finish innings defensively. e walked three guys in 4.1 [innings], which is uncharacteristic. They pecked away and then got some big swings late.”
On the decision to go with Clayton Claypool: “We could have gone in many directions. … Tomorrow, we have plenty of arms out of the bullpen. Bauer is one day short of a normal week. [Gerrit] Cole will be ready to go and then we have Klein, Grace and Goeddel.”
Starter Rob Rasmussen: “I just tried to keep my team in the game as much as possible. I think you have to give Matt Purke a ton of credit. He did an excellent job all day.”
Shortstop Niko Gallego: “Wind was really brutal out there. … The wind was blowing pretty good, TCU had to deal the same wind, we should have handled it better, but no excuses, we should have played better defensively and handled the wind better. [On Purke] … Not anything that he was doing,. He was pitching well, he threw a great game, he has his own rhythm and stuck to it.”
TCU Postgame Comments:
Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle: “Really good win for us, UCLA has a really great club. Matt [Purke] did a good job of making adjustments, especially with the sinker. I was nervous after the first inning, leaving the bases loaded with the catch in center field. … That was a tremendous play. [Lockwood] pitching on fumes did a great job. We survived another day.”
On the number of close calls: “On maybe the check-swing I could see arguing, but I thought he was safe at third. You can only control the things that you can control. At least for me it has to be something very grievous for us to lose our cool.
“The scary thing about UCLA is they know who they are, they are doing the same thing we talk about … maximizing their time at bat and minimizing their time on the mound. I think they are very well-coached. Bauer is a 3- or 4-pitch guy, he has a great routine, mentally strong. I’m sure he is a bulldog. My college coach coached those guys in Team USA and has always gone on and on and on about those guys. It’s not about the team that is the best, it’s about the team that plays the best.
“This is classic, this is what Omaha’s all about. [UCLA] still is in the driver’s seat because they have the extra day’s rest.We are both against the wall due to elimination. I don’t know who we are going to pitch tomorrow, but we have some options. Don’t let coach Savage fool you, they are pretty loaded over there.”
On Matt Purke’s Performance: “Sign of a good pitcher is winning when you don’t have your best stuff. He got groundball outs in hitters counts. Anyone can pitch when you have your best stuff … that’s a piece of cake. Jerome [Pena] has done a great job. He hasn’t even played infield in JC ball, it’s all about pitching and defense.“
Secon Baseman Jerome Pena: “On the home run, I was behind in the count again so I was guessing a bit and I got a good swing on it.”
Starter Matt Purke: “This place is an adventure on its own. We’ve been told to expect the unexpected here. Something on the boxscore that you were interested in: I came in looking at the ERA, hoping I could get down under the three, yes, it was today’s game was like the game I had versus Arizona in the regional. Guys took a long time to get to the plate … you can’t get rattled by that. Sooner or later, I was going to get them out and they could take their time on the bench.”
On UCLA’s patience: “Best I could compare them to is Texas in terms of patience, they really like getting the first guy on and doing some hit-and-runs or steals. You you have to focus on getting ahead and keeping them off base. [13 groundball outs]: These guys play phenomenal behind me. Jerome joked with me during the FSU game that he didn’t get a ground ball. So he wanted one today”
Shortstop Taylor Featherston: “I feel like every one of my at-bats have come with two strikes, so I am kind of getting used to it.”