Playing for the school’s first national championship in baseball, the Bulldogs had a tough night at the plate, falling to UCLA 3-1 in the first game of a best-of-three series.
UCLA can secure its first-ever baseball national championship by winning one of the final two games of the series. MSU can snag the title by winning back-to-back games. The series resumes at 7 p.m. Tuesday and would extend to a 7 p.m. start Wednesday with an MSU victory. Both of those games are on ESPN.
TD Ameritrade Park was packed out in Maroon with many spectators lining up hours before the first pitch to enter general admission seating. An MSU crowd of better than 10,000 jammed the stadium and gave the Bulldogs a rowdy home-field advantage in amongst an overflow crowd of 25,690.
“I thought we played a very good baseball team,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We had 12 strikeouts (pitching) and they only had two punch outs. You are supposed to win those kinds of games. I thought some things didn’t go our way, but that is how the game works.
“The kids kept fighting. We told them before the game something bad was going to happen to us and something bad was going to happen to them. It was all a matter of how you react to it.”
UCLA (48-17) won its ninth straight postseason game by scoring a single run in the first inning and two runs in the fourth inning. The Bruins only plated one run but it scored after a dropped third strike on a wild pitch opened the door. Both UCLA runs were unearned in the fourth inning after the Bulldogs erred a ball on a bunt attempt.
Offensively, the Bulldogs managed six hits but stranded eight base runners. The Bulldogs had a couple of near-misses including a line drive caught by the UCLA right fielder with the bases loaded.
“You have to make your luck in this game,” Cohen said. “They made the most of their opportunities. Sometimes you get the pitch you want and everything doesn’t happen for you. We had sequences and we had opportunities. We still have a great chance to come back and win the series.”
In relief, Chad Girodo dominated for the Bulldogs. Girodo pitched a season-best 7.2 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, with nine strikeouts. Trevor Fitts started and was lifted in the second inning.
The Bulldogs broke up the shutout in the fourth inning. C.T. Bradford drew a bases-loaded walked after hits by Alex Detz and Brett Pirtle. The inning ended with Porter lining out to right field with the bases loaded.
MSU would later reach its first two batters in the seventh inning but one of UCLA’s two double plays snuffed that threat.
Adam Plutko (10-3) pitched six innings to garner the win for the Bruins. Plutko allowed four hits and one run (earned), with two strikeouts. James Kaprielian and Zack Weiss followed before David Berg got the final outs for his nation’s best 24th save of the season.
Pirtle was the lone multiple hitter for the Bulldogs. Eric Filia and Pat Valaika each had two hits for the Bruins, who totaled six hits as well.