College World Series: UCLA’s David Berg focused on championship

David Berg, UCLA’s record-setting closer, doesn’t seem like a guy who would stand for a cutesy nickname. And yes, this one is all of that.

But really, is there a better nickname for him than “Ice”?

Icing rallies, putting games on ice for the UCLA baseball team. It’s what he’s been doing for two years now -- at a pace never seen before.

He has appeared in 50 games in each of his two seasons with the Bruins, an NCAA record. He has 24 saves this season, another record.

And when asked about enjoying those records after Monday night’s win over Mississippi State in Game 1 of a best-of-three-series for the national championship, he threw ice on his own party.

“Really, the last 24 saves don’t mean a thing,” he said. “The only one that matters is the next one. I just go out there, whether it be tomorrow or the next day, if I get the opportunity I have to be able to do my job then.”


Berg entered Monday’s game with UCLA up, 3-1, and one runner on with one out in the eighth inning. Mississippi State had been threatening to score for several innings, and what felt like a Bulldogs’ home crowd of 25,690 was rocking Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park.

Berg’s third pitch went for an inning-ending double play. An Ice Berg.

In the ninth inning, Mississippi State tried again, back-to-back singles putting the tying runs on base. Then a fly out to left field and a ground ball for the third out. Ball game. And that record save.

Berg enjoyed it for a couple of minutes.

More than anything he was happy about keeping his pitch count to 17. There was that next opportunity to consider.

“Gotta live in the present,” he said during a post-game news conference. “Can’t worry about the past. Again, if we win a national title I’ll go enjoy that. But a record without going out and winning this thing really wouldn’t be worth it.”

Berg’s earned-run average dropped to 0.94. And that record number of saves? Just imagine what that number would be had Berg started the season as the Bruins’ closer instead of as a set-up man.

And to think that he was at a crossroads only a couple of years ago, while in high school. He didn’t throw all that hard and wasn’t pitching all that well. Then he decided to start pitching sidearm.

His fastball still tops out at about 85 mph, but his pitches dip and dart and miss bat barrels.

Coach John Savage didn’t really want to extend Berg for more than an inning on Monday, but he felt he had to.

“When you’re the visiting team and you’re up a run or two in the eighth inning, you just cannot leave your All-American in the bullpen,” Savage said. “It’s a rule. You can’t do that.”

Berg has pitched in all four of UCLA’s College World Series games. The Bruins have won them all.

If Berg appears again Tuesday night, there’s a good chance that his last pitch of the season could give UCLA its first national championship in baseball.

Maybe then he’ll celebrate with a little something on ice.


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