Having gone 2-0 in their first two College World Series games, UCLA earned a break from the action, while TCU had to battle it out just to keep their postseason hopes alive. When the Bruins got their game versus the Horned Frogs going on Friday afternoon, they looked very much like a team that hadn't played since Monday, while TCU looked just like they had momentum following a thrilling comeback in an elimination game on Wednesday. With a hot start at the plate and a dominating Matt Purke on the mound, TCU was in control all game. Even when the Bruins threatened and gave themselves a chance to get the win, they seemed fortunate to be in the situation because the Horned Frogs seemed like the better team from the get-go and were rewarded with a 6-2 victory.
The Horned Frogs' win sets up a decisive game on Saturday, with the winner moving on to the Championship Series and the loser going home. Whoever takes tomorrow's contest will be just two wins away from a national title, with the best two of three series getting underway on Monday.
When Rob Rasmussen took to the hill for UCLA in the first inning, he was getting his first game action in 12 days. Early on, he looked very much the part and even when he got outs, ran up a high pitch count. By the time he day came to a close, he had allowed three runs on six hits, striking out six and walking three in 4.1 innings to absorb the loss. To emphasize the effect of rust even more, the Bruins brought Garett Claypool in to relieve Rasmussen, a right-hander who hadn't pitched in 26 days. The senior got off a solid start, but in his last two innings allowed two home runs for three runs in 3.2 innings.
Only such high expectations on the mound would make six runs against a top-notch TCU offense look like a disaster, but no matter the expectations, the performance of the UCLA offense was disappointing. Facing a talented pitcher who has found a groove in recent weeks, the Bruins couldn't pick up their first hit until the fifth inning and had just four for the game. Cody Regis went 2-4 with a run, leading the team, while Brett Krill and Chris Giovinazzo picked up the other two hits, Giovinazzo also scoring a run and Krill picking up a RBI.
Rasmussen's first inning troubles started while he was getting ahead of batters, then finished with him unable to find the strike zone. Consecutive one out singles, on 1-2 and 2-2 counts, put two men on the Horned Frogs. After Rasmussen got the second out of the inning, he walked the bases loaded, then walked one more, forcing a run in. It almost got worse for the Bruins in the inning, but Beau Amaral made a sensational diving catch in center to end the inning and keep at least two more runs from scoring.
The second inning started as badly as the first inning went for Rasmussen. The junior's second pitch of the inning was smacked deep to center field for a stand up double. With one out, Rasmussen was made to work when four pitches were fouled off before a single dropped in left center, allowing the runner on second to score for a 2-0 TCU lead. An error followed, giving the Horned Frogs two men on, but a pair of key strikeouts ended the frame.
After a relatively easy third inning and having retired the first man in the fourth inning, it looked like Rasmussen had found his groove, but then he left one pitch up and was made to pay for it. A line drive to left carried and carried before clearing the fence in left field for a 3-0 TCU lead.
It wasn't until the fifth inning that UCLA finally ended Purke's no-hitter when GIovinazzo reached on a bunt single to third. After Giovinazzo took second on a fielder's choice, Krill ripped a single up the middle to scored Giovinazzo and get the Bruins on the board.
A single and walk put two Bruins on base in the seventh inning and brought the end to Purke's day. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Niko Gallego hit a chopper to third and after fielding it, the TCU third baseman broke for third. Meanwhile, Jeff Gelalich was at second base and got a good jump going to third, resulting in a close play at the third base bag. The umpire rule that Gelalich beat the third baseman to the bag, keeping the inning alive and allowing a run to score. Replays showed that Gelalich had been beaten to the bag and should have been called out, but the Bruins weren't about the give the run back. Amaral followed Gallego, but he struck out swinging, leaving the bases loaded.
A two run home run in the seventh and solo home run in the eighth stretched out the TCU lead and delivered the Horned Frogs a win, setting up tomorrow' decisive game for a spot in the Championship Series.