With the bases loaded and a three-run lead, UCLA closer David Berg got a line out to center field to hold on for a 4-1 win against No. 1 North Carolina, sending the Bruins to the finals of the College World Series to face Mississippi State.
The Bruins' pitching staff controlled nearly the entire game, but came unraveled a bit in the top of the ninth inning. With UCLA up, 4-0, two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. A fielder's choice traded an out for a run to cut the lead to 4-1. Berg then struck out Parks Jordan for a huge second out, but walked the next batter to load the bases back up.
Momentarily, images of the Tar Heels' legendary late-inning comeback against Florida Atlantic were dancing through the heads of North Carolina fans.
Instead, Berg forced Landon Lassiter to line out, ending the season for the tournament's top-seeded team.
Earlier Friday, Mississippi State took down Oregon State, 4-1, to reach their first final in school history. The Bulldogs and Bruins will now play a best-of-three series for the national championship, beginning Monday night
After scraping by in elimination games all tournament, UNC finally ran out of lives Friday night. They lost in every round, but managed to crawl their way through each time. After losing a game to Florida Atlantic in the regionals, they needed two late rallies to sneak past the Owls in a 13-inning deciding game. They lost Game 2 of the Chapel Hill Super Regional to South Carolina before getting past the Gamecocks in Game 3, then dropped their Omaha opener to UCLA.
The Bruins took the lead in the bottom of the second inning, manufacturing one run off three singles. A groundout led off the inning before back-to-back singles put men on the corners. A pop up to shallow center wasn't deep enough to bring in a run, but a seeing-eye single from Cody Regis a batter later put UCLA up 1-0. UNC starter Kent Emanuel walked the next batter to load the bases, but got a huge strikeout to escape the jam.
Emanuel turned in a solid start, working a gritty six innings and allowing two runs off five hits. It was a significant improvement over his last two starts, in which he struggled with durability and failed to make it out of the third inning of either.
Grant Watson earned the win, going six shutout innings and allowing just four hits.
North Carolina threatened in the top of the fourth, putting two men on with one out, but freshman Skye Bolt grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Bruins added on in the bottom of the sixth when Kevin Williams shot an 0-2 pitch back up the middle to score Eric Filia from third. Filia reached when first baseman Cody Stubbs short-armed a chopper on the right side, and was moved to third by a sac bunt and a single.
UCLA took a commanding lead in the seventh, getting a two-RBI double from Pat Valaika to make it 4-0. The double was only the second extra-base hit of the CWS for the Bruins, who have made a living by scratching out runs on minimal offense. Coming into the game, only two of the Bruins runs in Omaha had come from base hits.
UCLA and Mississippi State begin their battle for a national championship at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN.
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