I'm a Chicago Cubs fans, and Northwestern University. I'm not really used to championships. It's gotten me to appreciate the sport for what it is, the individual game for what it is, the moment, the players and personality. Oh, sure there were the Michael Jordan Years, and those were great. Remarkable even. But my favorite teams are the Cubs and Northwestern Wildcats. No World Series in 104 years, no Rose Bowl in 63 years -- in fact, Northwestern has never once even qualified to be in the NCAA basketball tournament.
So, it's a bit odd to be sitting here tonight, having watched the Chicago Blackhawks win the NHL Stanley Cup last night -- and tonight, just an hour ago, see UCLA (my grad school alma mater) win their first-ever NCAA baseball championship. (The school has won an amazing 108 national championship, but never before one in baseball. Odd.)
UCLA had a strange team this year. They were sort of like the old Hitless Wonders, the 1906 Chicago White Sox who had no offense, but great pitching and won the World Series, where they batted a pathetic .198. (It should be noted that the team they beat was, of course, the Cubs.) UCLA had very little offense -- their team leader in home runs only hit five. The whole team only hit 19. By comparison, the player who the Cubs selected first in the baseball draft two weeks ago hit 31 home runs this year, all by himself. Almost double the entire UCLA team.
What they had was good, effective hitting when it matter, great fundamentals -- bunting, fielding, moving runners along -- and great pitching. Two strong starting pitchers and the top reliever in all of college baseball, David Berg, who lead the NCAA with 23 saves, which tied an NCAA record, and an Earned Run Average of a stunningly low 0.87, less than one run a game.
When it came to the College World Series, UCLA swept everyone. They had 10 wins and no losses. They didn't get many runs -- or even extra base hits. (Only four extra base hits the entire series!) But they gave up fewer runs, an average of less than one. And that's all you need -- one more run than your opponent.
And they saved it all for the last game. Beating Mississippi State 8-0.
I wonder what will happen tomorrow. No championship games that I know of. No problem, these two will last.
Hopefully, the Cubs and Wildcats were taking notes...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor