In their 90 years sponsoring baseball, no UCLA team has ever played for a national title, but as they have done so often this year, the 2010 UCLA Bruins has done something that no Bruin team has ever done. A bit of trouble in the top of the first turned out to be just a minor speed bump as the Bruins answered in the bottom half of the inning, then ran away from TCU for a comfortable 10-3 victory. The win came a day after the Horned Frogs defeated the Bruins to force Saturday's game, a deciding game in which the winner would move on to the Championship Series, while the loser would head home with their season over.
Next up for UCLA is the 2010 College World Series Championship Series that will decide the NCAA Champion. The best two out of three series begins on Monday, will continue on Tuesday and finish up on Wednesday, if necessary. Prior to this season, the Bruins had only advanced to the College World Series twice, going 0-2 on both occasions and not really sniffing a national title. This time around, UCLA is 3-1 in Omaha and two wins away from immortality as the final College World Series champion at Rosenblatt Stadium.
One bad pitch in the first inning by Trevor Bauer put the Bruins in a bit of trouble, but by the end of the game, there was no sense of trouble on the mound. Already having set the UCLA record for strikeouts in a season when he took to the mound to open the College World Series, Bauer struck out 13 more on Saturday to give him 165 for the season, tops in the nation. In his eight innings of work, Bauer allowed just three runs, two earned, on five hits and walked only two as he improved to 12-3 on the season. When Bauer's day was done, he handed the ball to Dan Klein, who had no trouble whatsoever, retiring the side in order in the ninth.
Everybody got involved for the Bruins with the bats as six of the nine starters picked up multiple hits and five different batters picked up an extra base hit. Blair Dunlap led the way with a 3-5, three RBI, two run effort that included a home run, while Dean Espy also hit one out as part of his 3-4, two RBI, run game. Cody Regis checked in with a 2-2, two RBI, run performance and Niko Gallego went 2-3 with three runs scored. In each of their eight innings at bat, UCLA put at least one runner on base in each one as they ran five different TCU pitchers ragged.
A solo home run in the top of the first put the Horned Frogs up early, but the Bruins took advantage of some poor control in the bottom half of the inning. Beau Amaral was hit by a pitch to start the game and Gallego followed with a single on a 1-0 count. Dunlap took the first pitch he saw for a ball, then he got the pitch he wanted and drove it over the left field fence for a three-run home run, completely switching the game's momentum. Things just got better for the Bruins as Regis walked, then Jeff Gelalich took a 3-1 pitch and put it in the left center field gap for a RBI double before Espy singled on another three-ball count to score Gelalich.
More poor control got the Horned Frogs in trouble in the second as Gallego started the frame by drawing a walk and Dunlap followed with a single. Two batters later, Regis laced a double to center, scoring Gallego, but Dunlap was thrown out at the plate. Nonetheless, the Bruins had stretched their lead to 6-1.
An error by Gallego to start the TCU half of the fourth came back to haunt the Bruins when a sacrifice fly scored him later in the frame. After Bryan Holaday hit his second home run of the game for the Horned Frogs in the fifth, UCLA's lead was just 6-3.
Needing an answer, the Bruins got just that and it was poor control by the TCU pitchers that did it again. Gallego led off the sixth by getting hit by a pitch and after Dunlap singled, the Bruins had men on the corners. A single by Regis back up the middle scored Gallego for a 7-3 UCLA lead, enough for Bauer who had found his rhythm. Even with more runs not necessary, the Bruins pushed for them and got another one in the sixth when a passed ball brought Dunlap home from third.
For good measure, Espy launched the first pitch thrown in the bottom of the seventh to deep left and watched it clear the fence for a solo shot. Later in the inning, TCU continued to shoot themselves in the foot and UCLA was there to take advantage. Another hit by pitch put a man on base, then on a double by Amaral, an error in left allowed the runner to come all the way around from first to stretch the Bruin lead to 10-3.
Bauer had no trouble in the eighth, striking out the side in order and when he handed the ball to Klein in the ninth, UCLA was sitting pretty. From there, it was a pair of ground balls and a strike out to victory and the Championship Series.