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UCLA's Berg makes history with 24th save

 

Matthew Stevens

 

OMAHA, Neb. -- UCLA baseball coach John Savage stated an unwritten rule Monday night after his team's 3-1 victory against Mississippi State University in game one of the College World Series Finals at TD Ameritrade Park. 

 

"When you're the visiting team and you're up a run or two in the eighth inning, you just cannot leave your All-American in the bullpen," Savage said. "It's a rule. You can't do that." 

 

That's why Savage strolled to the mound with one out in the eighth inning and immediately asked for sophomore right-hander David Berg, the 2013 Stopper of the Year.  

 

It was a familiar move. 

 

"Berg, he's kind of an old-school closer," Savage said. "He's not a one-pitch, one-out guy, as he's been up to three innings for us. We don't like to have him come in the middle of innings, but if we have to, we definitely will." 

 

Berg lived up to the expectations in his 50th appearance of the season, going the final 1 2/3 innings to break the NCAA single-season mark with his 24th save. 

 

"The last 24 saves don't mean a thing because the only the one that matters is the next one," Berg said. 

 

Berg allowed two hits and worked out of a jam with two runners on and one out in the bottom of the ninth in his 100th career appearance. He is the first pitcher to appear in 50 games in multiple seasons. The previous mark for saves was set on two occasions, including this season by Tyler Rogers of Austin Peay University. Like Berg, Rogers is a low-slot right-hander.  

 

Berg allowed hits to C.T. Bradford and Sam Frost, but he retired Nick Ammirati and pinch hitter Jacob Robson to end the game. 

 

"If we win a national title I'll go enjoy that," Berg said. "But a record without going out and winning this thing really wouldn't be worth it." 

 

In addition to his Pacific-12 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors, Berg was named to the All-Pac-12 team for the second time in his career, making him just the 25th UCLA player to receive all-conference acclaim at least twice. Berg also was named the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, which is given to the nation's top relief pitcher, making him the first UCLA pitcher to earn the award. He has lowest opposing batting average (.197) and has allowed the fewest runs (eight) in the Pac-12. At one point this season, he didn't allow a run in 37 consecutive innings, the longest consecutive scoreless innings streak in the nation this season. He has a save in 11 of UCLA's last 16 games. 

 

 

 

UCLA will start Vander Tuig; MSU declines to name starting pitcher  

 

Savage said the Bruins will stick to their rotation and go with junior right-hander Nick Vander Tuig tonight in game two. 

 

Vander Tuig (13-4, 2.31) leads the Bruins in strikeouts (87) and has walked only 17, seventh-fewest in the Pac-12. Vander Tuig's 13 wins also are second in the conference and third on UCLA's single-season list.  

 

"He's more of a groundball-orientated pitcher than I am," UCLA starter Adam Plutko said. "I think that's why we complement each other so well. We talk about hitters immediately after my starts and we've already done so tonight, believe it or not. He knows what I think of MSU's lineup." 

 

In Pac-12 play, Vander Tuig went 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA and two complete games in 10 starts. He has thrown at least six innings in 16 of his 18 starts. Vander Tuig has appeared in nine career postseason games (six starts) and is 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA. In the 2012 postseason, he went 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 24 strikeouts and three walks in 20 1/3 innings. 

 

MSU coach John Cohen didn't name a starting pitcher. The fifth-year coach mentioned named junior right-hander Ben Bracewell and sophomore right-hander Will Cox as possibilities. However, MSU could go with senior right-hander Kendall Graveman on short rest. 

 

"I've already talked to (MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson) right after the game the other day," Graveman said Sunday about starting on short rest. "I'll be knocking at his door, but that's up to their decision." 

 

 

 

 

 

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