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Bruins have enough hitting to reach College World Series finals

UCLA left fielder Brenton Allen, left, catches a fly ball as shortstop Pat Valaika runs in the opposite direction in the third inning of the Bruins' 4-1 victory over the Tarheels, punching their ticket for the College World Series championship round where they'll face Mississippi State.
(Francis Gardler / Associated Press)

Nothing comes easy for UCLA.

The Bruins’ Hamburger Helper offense had a little more meat to it Friday at Omaha. Top-seeded North Carolina was all but paws up in the ninth inning. Coach John Savage could relax — well, grimace less anyway — for those final three outs with lock-down closer David Berg on the mound.

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But that would have been boring.

There were gyrations to perform before the Bruins could celebrate a 4-1 victory over the Tar Heels (59-12) that put them in the College World Series final.

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Berg gave up one run and loaded the bases not once, but twice in the ninth inning. So there was a healthy exhale when he got out of the jam to put the Bruins in the final for the second time in four seasons.

UCLA (47-17) faces Mississippi State (51-18) in a best-of-three series that begins Monday. The Bulldogs earlier eliminated Oregon State by the same 4-1 score.

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“We win,” said Berg, whose 23 saves tied the NCAA season mark. “You can look at us and say the offensive numbers aren’t there. A lot of people wouldn’t pick us to win this thing, but we pick ourselves.”

Berg yielded two hits and walked two before leaving the bases loaded. “Luckily, the offense had picked me up,” he said.

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Those words haven’t been uttered much this week.

The Bruins scored four runs, two unearned, in their first two victories in Omaha.

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UCLA had five hits in each of the first two games. The Bruins had three in the second inning Friday. Two were choppers that found holes, and when Cody Regis’ single slipped through the infield, the Bruins had a 1-0 lead.

“It was our style of baseball, what can you say?” Savage said. “I thought we had better at-bats tonight. I really did.”

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The Bruins added to the lead in the sixth. Designated hitter Kevin Williams made it 2-0 on a single where his body went one way and his bat the other.

“It was two strikes, I was trying to fight it off, put it in play, do something with it,” Williams said. “Luckily, it got through.”

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Savage turned the seven-hit performance into a talking point.

“We’re capable offensively, I’ve said that all along,” the coach said. “We have good offensive players. They are just as good as any part of our game.”

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The Bruins are hitting .185 in the World Series. Other parts of their game have made up for it.

Grant Watson mimicked what Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig had done earlier in the week. Watson (9-3) last pitched June 2, but this was a rust-free performance. He gave up four hits in six shutout innings and turned it over to the bullpen.

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“He’s a strike thrower,” North Carolina Coach Mike Fox said. “He put our guys on their heels.”

And the Bruins in the final.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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Foster reported from Los Angeles.


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