There was a lot of talk regarding the College World Series finals' pairing of UCLA and Mississippi State, specifically whether the Bruins' rather anemic offense would be able to outpace the Bulldog bats. Thanks to Adam Plutko and a solid defensive performance, however, that wasn't exactly hard to do for the Bruins.
Plutko was brilliant in the Bruins' 3-1 win Monday night, stifling a Mississippi State offense that came into the game with a .304 team average in the NCAA Tournament. Plutko allowed just one run on four hits while striking out two batters over six innings.
The Bruins jumped on the board in the first inning after a costly Mississippi State error opened the door. Bulldog starting pitcher Trevor Fitts struck out the first two men up in the inning, but a wild pitch on strike three put the latter on base. A double from UCLA's Eric Filia to left field put men on second and third before a single from Pat Valaika gave UCLA a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins added on in the fourth, eventually getting the big hit they needed after stranding six runners in the first three innings. The score was once again set up by a Bulldog mistake as a throwing error on a sac bunt put two men on with one out. Two batters later, Filia went to the plate with two runners in scoring position and proceeded to single to right, driving in two runs to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
Mississippi State answered in the bottom of that inning, though, using a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases with two outs and then drawing a walk to force in their first run of the game. Trey Porter smoked a ball deep to right field shortly thereafter, but it landed harmlessly in Filia's glove to end the threat.
The Bulldogs threatened again in the seventh and eighth, but both rallies were snuffed out by double plays to end the innings.
Mississippi State reliever Chad Girodo, who entered in the second inning after another quick start from Trevor Fitts, was pegged with the loss after allowing the winning runs to score in the fourth. Girodo was dominant outside of that inning, though, finishing with two runs on just three hits -- none after the fourth inning -- in 7⅔.
UCLA closer David Berg worked the final 1⅔, picking up his 24th save of the season and moving him into first place nationally.
The two teams will be back in action for Game 2 of the best of three series Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.