The UCLA Bruins are headed back to the CWS championship series after setting down the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, 4-1 Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
David Berg, UCLA’s closer, entered the ballgame with a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning, leading the nation with 23 saves and a 0.85 ERA.
Little did he know what was in store for him — as the Tar Heels opened the inning with a pair of singles by Cody Stubbs and Skye Bolt. Still, coach John Savage showed confidence in his closer, who was awarded with the 2013 NCBWA Stopper of the Year.
The next batter, Michael Russell, drew a five-pitch walk, loading the bases with nobody out.
Sweating, Berg, finally got Mike Zolk to ground into a fielder’s choice, allowing Stubbs to score, but leaving runners at first and third with one out.
He’d then seem to return to form, striking out Parks Jordan swinging on a back-door slider, garnering the second out of the inning for the Bruins.
It allowed Chaz Frank to step up to the plate, a player the Bruins didn’t want on the basepaths as he is a rabbit.
Berg had him 1-2 in the count before throwing two straight balls to fill it up. The following pitch would be fouled off before Berg served up ball four — once again loading the bases, and putting the pressure on the Bruins once more.
UCLA needed just one win to advance to the CWS Championship Series. However, North Carolina needed to win two straight against the Bruins, and seemingly was oozing with confidence at this point.
Up to the plate came Landon Lassiter, who was 3-4 on the evening, and hitting .500 for the CWS.
On a 1-2 count, Berg finally got his wish, getting Lassiter to pop out to center field, allowing UCLA to get back to the Final of the CWS Championship, the school’s second trip in four years. It fell to South Carolina 2-0 in 2010.
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For those wondering what could have been, Colin Moran stood on deck — he led the nation with 91 RBIs, and was salivating at the opportunity to make the Tar Heels’ coming a reality.
But it was not to be on Friday night, and the Bruins will join the Bulldogs of Mississippi State on Monday night at 5 p.m. PT in Game 1 of the CWS Championship Series from Omaha.