Bruins are making the most of their offensive chances - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm / Updated at 11:04 pm
BASEBALL
Bruins are making the most of their offensive chances

Once again playing with the smallest of leads Friday night, it wasn't hard to guess what UCLA was going to do when Eric Filia reached on a North Carolina error to start the sixth inning and when Brian Carroll walked leading off the seventh.

Both times UCLA coach John Savage decided to bunt the runner over to second.

Both times the Bruins successfully carried out the sacrifice and ultimately got that lead runner around to score, helping turn a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 advantage.

So say what you will about the .248 season batting average, the two extra-base hits at the College World Series and the eight runs in three games in Omaha. UCLA has heard all that already.

But Savage is OK with measuring some of the Bruins' success with how they have advanced runners and taken advantage of limited chances in their run to the CWS championship series at TD Ameritrade Park.

“We're doing a good job,” Savage said Saturday. “There's no doubt. They've been precise. They get a sign and they commit to it and they execute. That's all you can ask out of a team.”

UCLA has moved runners via the sacrifice seven times in three CWS games. Six Bruins have done it at least once. And that total is now at 71 for the season.

Cleanup hitter Pat Valaika said the team knows by now how it works.

“I think we've definitely played our game, and I think the park kind of fits into what we try to do,” Valaika said. “We're not a home run-hitting team — we don't even have that many doubles — but we try to just get runners on and move them over, and get a single and score them.

“That's always how we've done it all year and that's what we've got to continue doing. Because at TD, you put the ball in the air and it's not going anywhere.”

The onus is on getting the runners home when they're out there, which UCLA (47-17) was able to do as it beat North Carolina 4-1 Friday night.

Cody Regis delivered a two-out RBI single in the second inning that bounced between the Tar Heels' first and second basemen. Pat Gallagher and Kevin Williams followed a Valaika sacrifice in the sixth with back-to-back one-out singles, the latter scoring Filia for a 2-0 lead.

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After Kevin Kramer sacrificed Carroll to second and Filia walked in the seventh, Valaika delivered a two-run double to left-center to make it 4-0.

“Timely hitting is a big part of our offense,” Valaika said. “You just try to get guys in scoring position, and the more chances you get the more successful you'll be. I was lucky enough to have two guys on and it was a big situation, the ball fell, and that's just how the game works.”

Said Savage: “We've been opportunistic. That's certainly the right word, I think.”

Savage has reminded reporters a time or two in Omaha that UCLA is still the same team that scored eight runs on Cal State Fullerton in the super regional. The Bruins still have that capability, but are just unlikely to do it with the long ball considering Valaika leads the team with five home runs.

So the Bruins will go back to grinding when they start the best-of-three CWS championship series Monday night against Mississippi State (51-18). Stick with focusing on good at-bats instead of trying to win it all on one swing.

“We've kind of taken advantage of every little crack in the window that we've been able to have,” Savage said.

The bottom line is the Bruins have the luxury of knowing their pitching and defense are usually going to keep the offense from any unreasonable demands. UCLA allowed just one run in each of its first three CWS wins.

Even against the kind of arms that UCLA will see with Mississippi State, that helps Bruin hitters keep from piling any extra pressure on their shoulders.

“We're just going to stick with the same approach we've been doing all year,” Regis said.

Contact the writer: Rich Kaipust

rich.kaipust@owh.com    |   402-444-1042    |  

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and some general assignment tasks, including the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

Read more related stories
CWS SCHEDULE »
Friday, June 14
Opening Celebration

Saturday, June 15
Game 1: Mississippi State 5, Oregon State 4
Game 2: Indiana 2, Louisville 0

Sunday, June 16
Game 3: N.C. State 8, North Carolina 1
Game 4: UCLA 2, Louisiana State 1

Monday, June 17
Game 5: Oregon State 11, Louisville 4
Game 6: Mississippi State 5, Indiana 4

Tuesday, June 18
Game 7: North Carolina 4, LSU 2
Game 8: UCLA 2, N.C. State 1

Wednesday, June 19
Game 9: Oregon State 1, Indiana 0

Thursday, June 20
Game 10: North Carolina 7, N.C. State 0

Friday, June 21
Game 11: Mississippi State 4, Oregon State 1
Game 12: UCLA 4, North Carolina 1

Championship Series

Monday, June 24
Finals Game 1: UCLA 3, Mississippi State 1

Tuesday, June 25
Finals Game 2: UCLA 8, Mississippi State 0
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