UCLA ace Adam Plutko did what a number one guy is supposed to do. He shut down a good offense in the big game. The Bruins defeated Mississippi State, 3-1, in game one of the NCAA Championship Series, putting them one win away from their first national title.
The Bruins scored in the first inning on a single to center by shortstop Pat Valaika and tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning and that was all the support Plutko and his bullpen needed. The junior, who was recently drafted in the 11th round by the Cleveland Indians, tossed 6.0 innings, giving up one earned run on four hits and a walk. He also hit a batter.
Plutko retired the first ten hitters he faced, saying he felt confident early on.
"I felt good coming out of the pen and I felt sharp," he said after the game. "It settled me down a little bit, but at the same time, I needed to come out better in the fourth and I don't think I did a good job of that."
Plutko gave up two singles, one walk and he hit a batter in the fourth inning and it looked like the Bulldogs might claw their way back into the game at the point, but Plutko retired Trey Porter on a line drive to right field to end the inning, minimizing the damage to one run.
Known as a fly ball pitcher, he wasn't afraid to pitch up in the zone in a park in which it is difficult to hit a home run.
"I'm just trying to change the hitter's eye level," he said. "I'm trying to get a weak fly ball out. A lot of people think I don't throw fastballs down in the zone, but that's completely false. I throw up in the zone because I throw down in the zone as well. It plays off each other."
He seemed to minimize the fact that the ballpark plays to his favor.
"It's a ballpark, and everyone's playing in the same one," he said. "Everyone's made a big deal about there not being as many home runs, but at the same time, it's just a ballpark."
He says there are instances in which he uses his high fastball to set up a hitter. As an example, he pointed to the Hunter Renfroe at-bat in the first inning in which Plutko struck him out.
"The first five pitches I threw him were all a little inside and up, and then the last pitch I threw him he took a bad swing on a fastball that was down and away."
Plutko credited his defense behind him, and justifiably so. Coming into the CWS, the Bruins were ranked sixth in the country with a .980 fielding percentage and they made several more solid defensive plays in this game – especially second baseman Cody Regis who made a couple of diving plays.
Game two will be played Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. (EST). Some are billing this championship series as country (Mississippi State) versus city (UCLA). Plutko was asked about that after the game.
"We've always been the city boys from L.A. out in Omaha," he said. "There's never too much blue and gold up in the stands and that's fine. But country versus city ... sure, you can make it into that, but at the same time, it's just baseball."