OMAHA, Neb. -- North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner couldn't have summed up UCLA right-handed pitcher Nick Vander Tuig in more succinct fashion.
Vander Tuig put together yet another stellar performance against the Wolfpack in a 2-1 win at the College World Series to get one win away from reaching the CWS championship series. But it was Turner, whose deep fly ball in the eighth inning to the warning track brought fans to their feet, and who headlined the post-game press conference with his intriguing comments.
Turner's ball fell short of a home run, a theme that has become all too familiar here at TD Ameritrade Park. But instead of focusing on that near home run after the game, Turner delved into Vander Tuig's pro-like arsenal.
"I was dumb enough to think it might be a home run. That was about as good as I can hit a ball right now," Turner said. "But as for Vander Tuig, he didn't ever miss a spot unless he wanted to. And when he missed a spot up, it was because he wanted to do it on purpose."
Turner, who finished the contest with a single and an RBI, drew much praise from UCLA coach John Savage, who immediately picked up on Turner's comments about Vander Tuig.
"That was a difference level of pitching. He was pitching in the zone, and out of the zone when he wanted to. That was just a different level," Savage said. "Nick showed that ability. As for Turner, that shows how special he is to able to recognize that.
"Not many [players] can recognize that when it's being done to them," he continued. "You hear coaches sometimes say it, along with scouts. But coming from a player, that makes me think he's pretty sharp. He's right, though. Nick pitches in the zone, then he would elevated it out of the zone. He also pitches in very well. We pitch with the fastball and sometimes that change, but the foundation for us is the fastball, and Nick has as good of command as we've had in a long time."
And so the beat and unorthodox recipe goes on for the Bruins.
While Vander Tuig's performance against the Wolfpack certainly headlined the night, it's also important to dissect just what UCLA's offense has accomplished, as ugly as it might be at times.
The Bruins entered the College World Series hitting .251 overall, .276 in the postseason. But as unimpressive as that is, they certainly are capable of some offensive production. After all, they scored eight runs in two games against Cal State Fullerton starting pitchers Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza, two of the nation's best, in last weekend's Fullerton Super Regional.
But here in Omaha, the Bruins are fitting that opportunistic billing that was placed on them in the days leading up to the CWS action. UCLA is hitting .169 as a team through two games in Omaha, but in each instance, has found a way to get the key hits needed to succeed, relying on the pitching staff to take care of the rest. Amazingly, UCLA is 2-0 at the CWS with just one RBI in the two games, just the first time since Arizona State in 1972 to win the first two games with two runs or less.
"It's more a mentality with us. We're just trying to grind out runs. We're not going to put up any gaudy numbers, but it's a team effort," UCLA first baseman Kevin Kramer, who had an RBI single in the fifth inning, said. "We need everyone in this offense. It might get a little frustrating at times, but we know we can put up a couple of runs, and we play defense."
Against the Wolfpack, Kramer had that RBI single, while Brian Carroll, Pat Gallagher, Cody Regis and Brenton Allen each added singles in the contest.
"Right now, that's just who we are. That's really just baseball," Savage said about his offense. "Sometimes it's grueling, and it's tough to watch from outside of the dugout. But our kids hung in there and persevered. We really didn't do much offensively tonight, but you also have to give their pitchers a ton of credit for that."
It was thought North Carolina State might start loose left-handed pitcher Brad Stone against the Bruins, but Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent opted to go with sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Jernigan, who allowed just a run in five innings of work two weekends ago against Rice.
Jernigan didn't disappoint against the Bruins, striking out three, walking three and allowing two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, relievers Grant Sasser and Josh Easley combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings of work to give the N.C. State offense a chance in the latter innings.
"You have to give him [Jernigan] credit. He pitched his tail off," Savage said. "He was competitive and he did his job. He gave them 4 1/3 innings, and I'm not sure if they knew what they were going to get out of him. He has a good fastball, along with a good breaking ball. He did his job."
As for Vander Tuig, he topped out at 91-92 with his fastball and showed immaculate command of the strike zone. Much like fellow right-handed pitcher Adam Plutko in the first game against LSU, Vander Tuig had a great stat line, striking out six, walking no one and allowing a run on four hits in seven innings of work.
No one will confuse the one-two punch of Plutko and Vander Tuig with former Bruins Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer from a pure power standpoint. However, the Plutko-Vander Tuig combination has dominated the field thus far, allowing just two runs combined in 14 innings of work.
And like Cole and Bauer accomplished just a few seasons ago, Plutko and Vander Tuig have the Bruins in position to potentially play for a national title.
Ugly or not at times, the Bruins sure seem to have the right recipe.
CWS snapshot: Breaking down UCLA-North Carolina State
Player of the game: RHP Nick Vander Tuig, UCLA -- The Bruins have gotten a steady diet of great performances from Vander Tuig this season, and Tuesday's performance was no exception. Vander Tuig struck out six, walked no one and allowed just a run on four hits in seven innings of work in the win over North Carolina State. He also threw 93 pitches, 63 for strikes.
Turning point: With Vander Tuig pitching at an elite level, the Bruins knew they didn't need to do much at the plate. Well, in the fifth inning, down 1-0, the Bruins scored a pair of runs. The first run came across on an RBI single from Kevin Kramer, while Brenton Allen scored on a wild pitch. With a 2-0 lead, the Bruins never looked back with Vander Tuig dealing on the mound, and reliever David Berg waiting in the wings.
What they said: "What can you say? Right now, I guess that's who we are. It's Bruin baseball. Sometimes it's grueling, tough to watch, I'm sure, from outside the dugout, but our kids hung in there, and they persevered. We really didn't do much offensively. You have to give their pitchers a ton of credit. They pounded the zone. We were opportunistic. Pitching and defense are clearly our strength. We know our strength, and sometimes it's walking a tightrope, and tonight was one of those nights." -- UCLA coach John Savage
What's next: With the win over North Carolina State, the Bruins are in very good shape moving forward. They still haven't used starting pitcher Grant Watson, and will now need to lose twice not to advance to the CWS Championship Series. Meanwhile, as for the Wolfpack, they now get a rematch with arch-rival North Carolina on Thursday. N.C. State still has Brad Stone and Ethan Ogburn available, as well as Chris Overman and a talented host of relievers.