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MSU, UCLA feel ballpark plays to their strengths


Matthew Stevens



OMAHA, Neb. -- The final teams in the College World Series feel the large dimensions of TD Ameritrade Park play to their styles.  


The large ballpark in Omaha, Neb., which has yielded only three home runs, has become a haven to Mississippi State University and UCLA, which rely on pitching and defense, and have a respect for the other team's style of play.  


"You've seen throughout the tournament that they've dominated with incredible defense and a unbelievable bullpen," UCLA coach John Savage said. "I have so much respect for what (MSU coach) John (Cohen) and MSU (pitching coach) Butch Thompson have done in recruiting at recognizing the changing development in college baseball." 


Despite special pitching that included Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft first-round picks Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, past UCLA teams didn't have enough offense to contend with other national powers. However, in the new world of college baseball that sees more 2-1 and 3-2 games instead of double-digit affairs, UCLA has made it back to the CWS in each of the past two seasons.  


"I think in Rosenblatt (Stadium) you had to rely on seven or eight big hits to get you through one game," Savage said. "I think Mississippi State proved with the Renfroe home run that now in Omaha one big hit can win you a game if you play defense the right way." 


MSU (51-18) has held opponents to three runs per game in the College World Series. It has relied on a bullpen led by closer Jonathan Holder and left-handed specialists Ross Mitchell and Chad Girodo to shorten the game. However, Cohen said Saturday morning after practice at Creighton University that UCLA will try to beat MSU at its game. 


"Everything they do is in an efficient way," Cohen said. "I mean everything that UCLA does, whether it's having some of the best starting pitchers or getting timely hits at the plate. The team that plays to its strengths best in this ballpark will win this whole thing." 




UCLA will start Plutko in game one of CWS championship series 


Savage announced Saturday after his team's practice session that junior right-hander Adam Plutko will start at 7 p.m. Monday (ESPN) against MSU. 


Plutko, who started UCLA's first game at the College World Series, will make his 19th start of the season. He defeated LSU on Sunday in the CWS opener for both clubs.  


Against the Southeastern Conference Western Division champions, Plutko (9-3, 2.29 ERA) allowed one earned run in a 101-pitch, seven-inning outing.  


"Adam, I think, pitched to the ballpark a little bit," Savage said. "That's his strength. He's a flyball pitcher. I think anybody that follows us knows that." 


The Cleveland Indians selected Plutko in the 11th round by the Cleveland Indians earlier this month. The Houston Astros drafted him in the sixth round three years ago out of high school. He has 28 career victories and is 2-0 in the College World Series. 




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