LSU fell 2-1 to UCLA in its first game of the College World Series after a Tigers defense that is usually reliable made two very crucial errors, the second of which essentially sealed the game.
In the sixth, UCLA centerfielder Brian Carroll dropped a leadoff bunt and catcher Ty Ross' errant throw sailed into right field allowing him to reach second. Two batters later, he scored on Filia's deep sacrifice fly to tie the game at one apiece.
UCLA broke a 1-1 tie when Eric Filia's two-out ground ball in the top of the eighth inning was misplayed, allowing the go-ahead run to score. The Bruins took the lead for good in the eighth inning when shortstop Alex Bregman misplayed Filia's grounder with two outs that allowed pinch runner Christoph Bono to score from third.
"I thought Aaron (Nola) pitched in the clutch and got us through some of the innings, but unfortunately, he made a big pitch, got the ground ball to shortstop and Alex (Bregman), whose been great all year for us at short, just kicked the ball," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "He's been a phenomenal player for us, but this is a very humbling game."
"It's very frustrating," said Ross. "I should have made that play and Bregman should have made that play. Those are the kinds of things that don't normally happen to us, but we've got to overcome it."
The Tigers (57-10) saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time in this NCAA postseason. UCLA (45-17) held an LSU team batting .308 on the season to just five hits.
LSU starter Aaron Nola (12-1) suffered his first loss of the year in a tough-luck decision, allowing both runs – none of which were earned – on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Nola has not allowed an earned run in 26.2 consecutive innings dating back to the May 23 Arkansas contest in the SEC Tournament. It was Nola's first loss since May 18, 2012 at South Carolina.
"It's real frustrating, letting that lead-off guy get on, but it's happened to me before throughout the year," said Nola. "And, I battled as hard as I can until the last pitch."
UCLA starter Adam Plutko (9-3) held the Tigers to just four hits and one run while walking two and striking out two. Plutko did not allow a leadoff hitter to reach base. All week long, Mainieri had his team practicing not to hit the ball in the air in TD Ameritrade Park. However, Plutko was able to get the Tigers to pop out and fly out 13 times in the game.
"Three balls were crushed and players feel like they did everything they could do and the ball just kind of died out there at the warning track and they were outs. They'd come back to the dugout and say, ‘Boy, I hit that one as good as I could hit it.' But, luck is the residue of design, too," Mainieri added.
Right fielder Mark Laird continued his hot hitting in NCAA Tournament play with two hits and his seventh double of the year. First baseman Mason Katz provided the first homer of this year's CWS with a solo shot in the fourth.
"Their pitchers did well all night," Laird said. "He was keeping it in the strike zone and their defense played really well behind him and was keeping us off balance. When we got runners in scoring position, we didn't seem to move them over very well."
Katz broke the scoreless pitcher's duel in the fourth when he launched a one-out, solo home run – his 16th of the season – into the left field bullpen. It represented the first homer of the 2012 CWS and his second homer of this NCAA postseason.
Trailing 2-1, LSU had one last chance in the ninth with runners at first and second and two outs against UCLA's David Berg. After Raph Rhymes grounded into a double play, third baseman Christian Ibarra drew a walk and pinch hitter Tyler Moore continued his clutch hitting with a single to center. Second baseman JaCoby Jones worked a 3-1 count before popping out to shallow right field to end the game.
"Berg did just exactly what I thought he'd do. He'd throw it down the middle. Rhymes had a good swing on it, hit it hard. He hit it so hard the guy was able to get the force out at second base, but before Katz could even get there. So, that tells you the ball was hit good and it was just bad luck on our part," Mainieri explained.
LSU will face North Carolina (57-11) in an elimination game Tuesday. The Tar Heels fell 8-1 to NC State in the first game Sunday. LSU will be the home team after winning a coin flip. As for the guy who is going to toe the rubber on the mound for LSU, Mainieri said he was still not sure. The game is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. It will air on ESPN.
The Bruins advanced to the winner's bracket and will play North Carolina State at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved. The LSU Sports Information Department contributed to this report.