UCLA closer David Berg was riding by TD Ameritrade Park Monday afternoon when he saw hundreds of Mississippi State fans in line for general admission seats.
That’s when the sophomore knew what kind of raucous atmosphere he and his teammates would be facing in Game One of the CWS championship series.
As they stretched in right field, two hours before first pitch Monday, the UCLA players chuckled to one another about the scene in the stands, many of them pondering their CWS opener before an LSU-dominated audience this year or their 2011 CWS debut against Omaha’s adopted darling Stony Brook. What was humorous to them: That this soldout stadium, painted maroon and white Monday, didn’t realize how much the Bruins thrive as the spoilers.
“We knew what we were walking into,” Berg said. “We were not surprised by any of it.”
Not even in the ninth inning, when the MSU fans were as lively as ever. The Bulldogs had runners on first and second with one out, trailing 3-1.
Berg didn’t flinch.
Monday was the 100th appearance for the sidearm-throwing righty. And the most recent outings here in Omaha were all filled with drama.
LSU had the tying runner on second base, but couldn’t break through against Berg. NC State nearly turned a one-run deficit into a two-run lead with one swing off Berg in the eighth, but the fly ball stalled on the warning track. North Carolina, down 4-0, loaded the bases with nobody out Friday, but Berg wiggled out of the jam allowing just one run.
Berg was ready for Mississippi State’s surge Monday.
“Felt like we were in Starkville,” he said. “They felt the momentum, they saw the tying run get on base, they knew they were one pitch away.”
“I felt fine out there,” Berg said. “I was making good pitches. … Just keep doing what I was doing, not worrying about situation.”
Berg got the final two outs, positioning UCLA one win away from securing its first national title.
With his 24th save of the season, Berg has the NCAA record. He’s the first player in NCAA history to appear in 50 games in two consecutive seasons. But afterward Monday, all he really wanted to talk about was his low pitch count (17 pitches in 1 2/3 innings) and his ability to rebound over night — he could throw Tuesday.
“If we win a national title, then I’ll go and enjoy that,” Berg said.