OMAHA, Neb. --- Mississippi State’s 2013 post-season quest advances to uncharted territory Monday in Omaha, Neb., where the Bulldogs (51-18) open a best-of-three series against UCLA (47-17) for the championship of the 2013 NCAA College World Series. It’s Mississippi State’s deepest march in 33 advancements to NCAA post-season play and first appearance in the CWS Championship Series.
The Bulldogs and the Bruins square off at 7 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha with live national television coverage provided by ESPN. The radio broadcast of the game will be carried on the statewide Bulldog Sports Network.
Both MSU and UCLA reached the championship series with perfect 3-0 marks in bracket play. State topped Oregon State (5-4), Indiana (5-4) and Oregon State (4-1) for its first three-win showing in nine trips to Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series.
MSU sophomore righty Trevor Fitts (0-0, 2.86), with three of his five 2013 starts coming during MSU’s NCAA Tournament run, will open on the mound for the Bulldogs. UCLA has tabbed junior righty Adam Plutko (9-3, 2.29) for his 19th start of the campaign.
“We're certainly excited about this opportunity to compete against a great UCLA ball club that's very well‑coached and managed very, very well,” said Bulldog skipper John Cohen at Sunday’s pre-series press conference in Omaha. “I feel like we've had really solid preparation. I think our kids are really grounded and just looking forward to this opportunity. The one thing that our kids have been able to do is have fun through it all. They're having fun. That's our identity. It's part of who we are. We're going to continue to do that and do our very best against one of the great teams and great coaching staffs in the country today.”
The Bulldogs practiced Sunday afternoon at Creighton University with nearly 100 Mississippi State fans on hand.
MSU is 1-4 all-time against the Bruins on the diamond. State is taking on UCLA for the sixth time overall and for the first time since the Bruins topped State 5-2 in the 2010 Whataburger Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas. The teams have split a pair of meetings in NCAA postseason play. The Bruins ended MSU’s 1992 season with a 3-2 win in the Midwest Regional at Dudy Noble Field. State evened the count in NCAA post-season play with a 7-5 elimination round decision over UCLA in the 1997 NCAA College World Series.
“It's obvious when you look at their club they don't make a lot of mistakes,” said Cohen. “They don't make errors and they're very efficient offensively. They have a great pitching staff and one of the great closers in all of college baseball.”
Junior shortstop Adam Frazier (.358) and junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe (.355) pace the Bulldogs at the plate. Frazier clinched the 2013 NCAA hits title with his school-record 106th hit in State’s 4-1 win over Oregon State last Friday. The Bulldogs’ All-American lead-off hitter has hit safely in eight of MSU’s nine NCAA Tournament games. Renfroe, one of three other Diamond Dogs accorded all-America team honors, begins the championship series riding a 10-game hitting streak. He clubbed his 16th home run and raised his team-best RBI total to 65 with a game-sealing three-run blast Friday against OSU.
Also in that game junior second baseman Brett Pirtle extended his reached based streak to 42 games while sophomore All-American closer Jonathan Holder (2-0, 1.24 ERA, 21 saves) set the school career mark with his 30th save, his fifth in as many 2013 NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Bulldogs’ 51 wins is the most by a Mississippi State team since the 1989 MSU edition registered a school-record 54 wins. MSU recorded 50-win seasons in both 1985 and 1990. Coach John Cohen has been associated with three of the team's four 50-win campaigns as a player or as a coach. State has also set a school mark with an 11-1 record in SEC and NCAA post-season play. MSU is riding a six-game win streak in the NCAA Tournament, the team’s longest run of wins since opening the 2013 season with 17 consecutive wins.