In the eighth inning, UCLA head coach John Savage was ready to pull the plug on Gerrit Cole's tremendous start. "I was about to take him out with two outs in the eighth," Savage said. "He said, 'Coach, trust me, I trust you. I think I can get this guy.'" After his performance on Monday night, there aren't many people who wouldn't trust Cole.
It took UCLA 41 years after their College World Series appearance to get their first win in Omaha, but two days after they got that first win, the Bruins picked up win number two. Just as was the case on Saturday, UCLA scored in the first inning, but unlike on Saturday, the Bruins didn't ever give the lead away en route to their 50th win on the season. They pushed that one run lead to a five run lead and when TCU did their best to get back into the game, the Bruins had an answer for them. By the end, UCLA walked away 6-3 winners over the Horned Frogs and sitting pretty in bracket one of the 2010 College World Series.
In the double elimination format that the College World Series uses, winning the first two games puts a team at a huge advantage. In doing so, you earn yourself a nice, long break to set up your pitching rotation, while also giving you two games to win one for advancement to the Championship Series. With those first two wins in the bag, UCLA now gets to watch TCU and Florida St. battle on Wednesday for the right to play the Bruins on Friday at 1:30 pm PDT. If the Bruins win that game on Friday, they will move on to the best two of three Championship Series, while a loss gives them one more chance to earn a spot in the Championship Series with a game on Saturday.
UCLA is sitting in such a great position in large part due to their pitching. On Saturday, Trevor Bauer threw a gem on on Monday night, it was Cole's turn. The sophomore flamethrower was untouchable through six innings, limiting the Horned Frogs to just one hit in a thoroughly dominating performance. Cole ran into seventh inning trouble, but came up with big outs when he needed it. When he walked off the mound for the last time Monday night, Cole had eight innings under his belt with 13 strikeouts, 12l of them swinging. Having allowed just three runs on five hits in the game, Cole deservedly picked up his 11th win of the season, the third Bruin pitcher to reach that mark. After Cole, Savage turned to Dan Klein, who threw a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 10th save of the season.
At the plate, it was the freshmen who did the heavy lifting for the Bruins. As the table setter, Beau Amaral went 3-3 with two runs, a RBI and a walk. Cody Regis picked up just one hit, but he made it count, launching a two-run home run for his fifth long ball of the postseason after hitting just four all regular season. A third freshman got in on the action as Jeff Gelalich hit a home run of his own. All six UCLA runs came by way of a freshman scoring or picking up the RBI as the youth led the way.
As the designated home team, UCLA took the field to start the game and Cole was dominant from the early going as he struck out the first three batters of the ballgame. Amaral started the home half of the first inning and reached on a walk, then took second on a hit and run ground out. While the freshmen led the way in the game, a redshirt senior got in on the action as well when Blair Dunlap hit a ground ball that squirted past the TCU second baseman for a RBI single.
Singles in the second inning by Dean Espy and Chris Giovinazzo put a runner in scoring position for the Bruins with two outs. Amaral stepped to the plate and without hesitation, hit the first pitch he saw right back up the middle for a clean single, scoring Espy for a 2-0 Bruin edge.
On Saturday, UCLA managed 11 runs on 18 hits, only three of which went for extra bases. The first four UCLA hits on Monday also went for singles, but Regis finally showed off some Bruin power in the third. After a Justin Uribe walk, Regis went with a fastball high and away, smacking it to left center field and out for a two-run homer. Two batters later, Gelalich got a hold of a pitch of his own, turning on one and putting it into the right field bleachers for a solo shot and 5-0 UCLA lead.
When the Bruins went without a run in the fourth inning, it marked just the second inning of 12 at the College World Series that UCLA didn't score a run and ended a streak of 10 consecutive innings with a run.
It wasn't until the seventh inning that the Horned Frogs made their push. Having managed just one hit to that point, three singles loaded up the bases for TCU with two outs in the inning. Cole got ahead of the next batter, 1-2, but struggled to put him away. After the first 3-2 pitch was fouled away, Cole left a pitch up and paid for it with a drive to deep left center. Amaral gave chase and dove in pursuit of the ball, but he couldn't get a glove to the ball and it went for a three-RBI triple. With a man on third, over 100 pitches in the books and the tying run coming to the plate, Cole buckled down and dialed up a 97 mph fastball for strike three to end the inning.
With momentum swinging the Horned Frogs' way, UCLA answered. Amaral picked up his sixth hit in seven College World Series at-bats when he dropped a double down the left field line to lead off the UCLA seventh. A passed ball moved Amaral to third and made the job easy on Niko Gallego, who hit a simple fly ball to center field. Amaral tagged up on the play to give the Bruins a 6-3 lead and grab momentum back.
After Cole sat down the first two batters of the eighth, he walked one and Savage visited the mound. After a long discussion, Cole convinced Savage to let him stay in the game and Cole rewarded Savage's confidence by getting the next batter to ground out on the first pitch, ending Cole's fantastic night.
A one-out single gave the Horned Frogs the slightest bit of hope in the ninth, but Klein would have none of it. One out later, Espy came charging in from third and grabbed the ball before throwing off balance to first to get the batter in the nick of time for the game's final out. With that 27th out in the books, UCLA earned the right to sit and relax as they wait for their chance to get the last win they need for a spot in the Championship Series.