UCLA vs Mississippi State: Players Who Will Decide Championship Series

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IJune 24, 2013

Jun 8, 2013; Fullerton, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins relief pitcher David Berg (26) celebrates following a 3-0 win against the Cal State Fullerton Titans to win the Fullerton super regional of the 2013 NCAA baseball tournament at Goodwin Field. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

After a long, arduous regular season and pressure-packed postseason tournament, UCLA and Mississippi State are ready to duke it out for the national championship in Omaha. 

The three-game Championship Series begins on Monday night, June 24 at 8 p.m. ET, and there are phenomenal players worth watching on both squads.

Both teams fended off worthy opponents and overcame long odds. 

As is usually the case, getting to this point in the proceedings required a blend of offense, defense and phenomenal pitching. That said, UCLA features a more potent pitching staff, while Mississippi State features a lineup known for putting up runs in bunches. 

Looking at both rosters, it's clear that there are a couple of key players that have been stalwarts all year long. These upcoming players give their respective teams a chance to win every single game they play, and they will determine the outcome of this Championship Series.


UCLA: Adam Plutko, Starting Pitcher

Plutko has been golden all year long for the Bruins, and he's set to start Game 1 on Monday night after getting a full seven day's worth of rest since his last start on June 16. 

The epitome of a big-game pitcher, Plutko has compiled an undefeated record in postseason play, as noted by UCLA Baseball's official Twitter account: 

Should Plutko come out sharp on Monday night and shut down the loaded Mississippi State lineup, UCLA will likely win Game 1 and have a huge leg up to win the series.

If Plutko comes out flat and gets rocked early, the Bruins' incredible postseason run could come to an early and disappointing conclusion. 


Mississippi State: Hunter Renfroe, OF

One of the players selected early in the 2013 MLB draft (No. 13 to the San Diego Padres), Renfroe is a phenomenally talented hitter who is a threat to win any game with his bat. 

During the regular season, Renfroe batted .362 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI to lead the Bulldogs in all three major categories. He managed to continue producing hits, runs and RBI throughout the playoffs but failed to hit a home run until the team's last game against Oregon State. 

His three-run bomb against Andrew Moore proved to be the difference in the game, as the Bulldogs beat the Beavers 4-1, and it also snapped a 91 at-bat streak without a home run, as noted by MLB.com's Cash Kruth. 

Mississippi State will need Renfroe's bat to stay hot against the exceptional pitching staff UCLA possesses. 


UCLA: David Berg, Closer

As good as Plutko has been for UCLA as a starter, Berg has been even better as the team's closer this season. 

Sporting an undefeated record of 7-0 with a sparkling ERA of 0.88 during the regular season, Berg tied an NCAA record this year when, as noted by Pac-12 Live, he posted his 23rd save of the season against North Carolina State:

Given the fact that UCLA features a lackluster offense that didn't generate many runs during the regular season and in the team's postseason run, it's safe to say Berg will have a chance to break this record.

If he shuts down Renfroe and the loaded Bulldogs offense with the game on the line, UCLA will win the series. If Berg somehow breaks down and loses his hot streak during this upcoming Championship Series, UCLA is doomed. 


Mississippi State: Ross Mitchell, Relief Pitcher

Unlike UCLA, the Bulldogs don't feature a particularly strong starting lineup. 

Thankfully, Mitchell leads one of the most well-rounded and successful bullpens in the nation—one that compiled a record of 32-5 this year. 

Mitchell, a middle reliever, has logged more innings this season than any other pitcher besides starter Kendall Graveman. In 92 innings, Mitchell has an unblemished record of 12-0 and has managed to allow an ERA of just 1.27.

If the team's trend holds true, Mitchell will log plenty of innings in this series. He'll need to stay sharp to ensure Mississippi State wins the series.

Note: Stats courtesy of NCAA.com and collegesplits.com

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