Let's start the week with a focus on our baseball team. Coach John Savage's boys are the toast of Westwood this Monday as they exorcised their Fullerton demons yesterday thanks to a spectacular effort from their Sunday ace: Rob Rasmussen. I was finally able to watch an entire UCLA baseball game from start to finish on national tv and the guys didn't disappoint with their convincing win over the Titans.
Following the baseball team through Ryan's posts I got the impression of a team this season that always found a way to bounce back after experiencing adversity. This was different than UCLA baseball team of past, which often folded after encountering losing streaks or tough situations within a ball game. So even before Saturday night's dramatics (which I assume is now one of the best moments in the program's history), we got a look at the character makeup of this team, when it bounced back with a huge winning streak after getting swept by Arizona State (who also BTW punched their tickets for Omaha).
It is not going to be easy for the Bruins as they will take on perennial powerhouse Florida in the first game CWS. We have been to Omaha twice before without any victory to show for. Yet we get the sense that something is different with this year's squad. Here are the interviews (with comments from Coach Savage and Rasmussen) from the official site:
Also gotta love the Eight Clap from the team towards the end. Note number 12 - Gerrit Cole - how much he gets into it. I find that kind of refreshing from a kid who just walked away from millions and the chance to put on the Yankee Pinstripes. The official site has a really cool photo gallery from last night's game. I will share some more quotes after the jump.
Going back to Rasmussen it took him about an inning to get settled in. Once he settled in though he was in Orel Hershisher zone. Ras's quotes following the game made it pretty clear where he drew inspiration for this game:
"This exorcises some demons," Rasmussen said. "I wanted this really bad because of what they did two years ago. I came out and tried to attack them."
The Bruins (48-14) have never won a World Series game in two trips to Omaha. But then they had never got past Fullerton in postseason before either, losing three times.
"My first postseason experience was getting eliminated by Fullerton," Rasmussen said this week. "That definitely motivates you."
Jon Gold had more on Rasmussen's pent up emotions re. facing the Titans:
"It was unbelievable - they ended our season my freshman year, and it left a bitter taste in all of our mouths," Rasmussen said. "Once we made that comeback yesterday, I just knew. I said to myself, 'Please, for Fullerton's sake, don't give me the ball.' I want this. I want this really bad because of what they did."
I had to lol last night when hearing Robin Ventura concern trolling about Ras's display of emotions following inning ending strikeouts. Ventura was getting "concerned" that Ras would "wake up" Fullerton's bats. What he completely failed to note that Ras was also firing up the entire team and essentially served as the emotional lynch pin for an entire program looking to get over the Titan hump. The Fullerton baggage is an old topic around BN and UCLA online communities at this point. As Coach Savage said, "We needed to do this as a program." It was simply awesome to see Ras being so aggressive and getting his entire team behind him in going right after the Titans.
Besides Ras I also enjoyed watching Niko Gallego last night. Gallego was the defensive MVP of the entire series. Yet last night he also got the ball rolling with his aggressive base running that resulted in the first run. Speaking of defense Beau Amaral was solid out at the CF and money at the plate (going 3 for 4 with a smooth, effortless looking HR swing). His late dinger gave the team much needed breathing room in the closing innings:
"After last night was a tough game from both sides, we just felt that whoever when out and threw the first punches was going to end up on top," said Amaral, who went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs. "Momentum is a big thing in baseball - but being able to score runs late in the game really made it a lot easier."
Well the Bruins have few days to rest before day head off to Omaha. Savage mentioned to ESPN how the team has been confident since fall:
"We felt very confident about this team since the fall," Savage said. "We felt like we had the pieces."
Now Savage is hoping those pieces align themselves in the Cornhusker state.
We can hardly wait.