For the first time ever, the University of California, Los Angeles won a NCAA Baseball Championship on Tuesday night.
And if it wasn't for a kid from Turlock, the Bruins might never have done it.
Kevin Kramer, a Turlock High School graduate, serves as the team's star Sophomore third baseman. He batted second in game two of the College World Series Finals, held in Omaha, where the Bruins completed a 2-0 sweep of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, winning the game in an 8-0 shutout.
"This championship means everything," said UCLA head coach John Savage. "This is for all of the Bruins. All of the Bruin baseball players and all of the guys who were here before I was and set the tone. I'm just so proud of the program and our coaches and players and everybody involved. We're a family and we did it together."
The Bruins took the lead in the first inning and never looked back. That first run came as Kramer, batting second, bunted to advance Junior center fielder Brian Carroll, who was hit by a pitch. MSU Senior starting pitcher Luis Pollorena couldn't cleanly field the bunt, leaving Kramer at first and Carroll at third. Carroll would score a batter later on Sophomore right fielder Eric Filia's sacrifice fly.
“I thrive for this,” said Filia, who drove in seven of the Bruins' 11 runs in the CWS. “We just stayed with our approach and stayed small. They have great pitching. Mississippi State has one of the best bullpens and starting pitchers out here. We just kept battling and came out with the win.”
Kramer scored a run himself in the third when he singled, was bunted to second by Filia, and was knocked home by Junior shortstop Pat Valaika's single.
Kramer later batted in a run in the fourth, on a sacrifice fly. And he singled again in the eighth, loading the bases for Filia to hit a two-run single.
Kramer finished the night 2 for 2 with a walk, a run, and a run batted-in. It was a far better outing for Kramer than in Game 1 of the series, when he went 0 for 5.
The kid from Turlock played an integral part in the Bruins' season, as the only player to appear in all 65 games. He hit .272 for the season, with a .377 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging percentage.
Kramer rose to national prominence through a standout high school baseball career, highlighted by his three playoff home runs during Turlock's run to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title game in 2010. He also played on the USA Baseball U-16 Team which claimed the gold medal in Taiwan in 2009.
Now he'll have a coveted NCAA National Championship to add to the trophy case – the first in UCLA's storied athletic history. Through the university has won 109 NCAA championships, Kramer took part in the school's only NCAA Baseball Championship.
Kramer wasn't the only Stanislaus County product on the field for UCLA. Starting pitcher Nick Vander Tuig, an Oakdale High School graduate, threw eight strong shutout innings, fanning six and allowing just five hits and one walk.
“This whole team is so close and I can't really explain how happy I am,” Vander Tuig said. “Our defense has been great all year and our pitching staff has a lot of heart. We have each other's back. I can't be more proud of this team. I'm going to miss them.”
Turlock High Grad, UCLA, Near College World Series Title