After winning their first two games of the Los Angeles Regional, UCLA could afford to lose on Sunday to UC Irvine and still win the Regional on Monday night. Just because they could afford that didn't mean they wanted to do that and UCLA once again rode timely hitting and fantastic pitching to take down the Anteaters, 6-2. The win sent the Bruins to their first Super Regional since 2007, but unlike in 2007, UCLA will play host to the best two of three series with a spot in the College World Series on the line. On top of that, the Bruins moved to 46-13 on the season, setting a new school record for wins in a season.
Despite being in the Regional that most considered the toughest in the country, UCLA had no problem going 3-0 on the weekend, defeating each of the three other teams: Kent St., LSU and UC Irvine. As a result of their fantastic play, the Bruins were well represented on the All-Los Angeles Regional team with Beau Amaral, Cody Regis, Gerrit Cole and Niko Gallego earning a spot, while Trevor Bauer took home Regional MVP honors for his start versus LSU on Saturday night.
The spot in the Super Regionals was secured largely in part due to the Bruins' terrific pitching on Sunday evening. Rob Rasmussen got the start for the Bruins and the only way the Anteaters got to him was with a pair of solo home runs. By the time Rasmussen exited the game after six innings, the southpaw had struck out seven, walked none and allowed just two runs on five hits to picks up the win. The junior was relieved by Erik Goeddel, who struck out two in a pair of scoreless innings before Dan Klein closed the door in the ninth. For the weekend, the Bruins finished with a 1.33 team ERA.
At the plate, it was Regis who led the way. The freshman went 1-2 with a home run, three RBI, two runs and two walks. Blair Dunlap was the only Bruin with multiple hits, going 2-4 with a run and RBI. Amaral chipped in with a 1-4, one run effort, while Chris Giovinazzo and Niko Gallego each went 1-4 with a RBI.
It was Regis who got things going in the second inning with a lead off walk and after a pair of ground outs, the freshman was standing on third with two outs. After fouling away a fastball over the plate to start his at-bat, Gallego jumped on a 1-1 pitch and smacked it deep to left center for a RBI triple.
UCLA's lead lasted all the way until the bottom half of the second, when Irvine's Drew Hillman sent one to right center field for a solo home run, watching it land very near where he hit his home run earlier in the day versus LSU.
The next inning, UCLA grabbed their lead back. A lead off single by Amaral put a man on base, then Dunlap turned on an inside pitch and lined one down the left field line for a RBI double that put the Bruins ahead, 2-1. Following a hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt and intentional walk, UCLA had the bases loaded with one out. Giovinazzo came to the plate and rolled over on the first pitch he saw, but the Irvine third baseman couldn't grab the slow roller and everyone moved up 90 feet as UCLA took a 3-1 lead. With a chance to blow the game open, the Bruins fell short as a strike out and ground out ended the frame.
As was the case in the second inning, the Anteaters' long ball got to Rasmussen in the fifth. The first pitch that Rasmussen threw to Jordan Leyland was smacked well over the fence in right center field and landed on top of the hitting facility as the UCLA lead shrunk to 3-2. The Anteaters did their best to even things up later in the inning when they had two on with one out, but Rasmussen used his breaking pitches to put away consecutive batters on strikes and avoid any more damage.
With Rasmussen watching from the dugout, Goeddel took to the mound in the seventh and retired the first two batters he faced. Consecutive singles put the tying run at second base, but like Rasmussen, Goeddel was able to get the strikeout he needed to end the inning.
A walk and hit by pitch opened up the UCLA half of the eighth and brought Regis to the plate, who did his part to dash the Anteaters' hopes. The very first pitch that the freshman saw he smacked to right center, cutting through the heavy air and not finding the ground until it had long cleared the fence for a three-rune home run.
With a 6-2 cushion, Goeddel had no trouble in the eighth before handing the ball to Klein, who managed to put Irvine away and send the Bruins on to the next weekend of postseason play.
As a result of being the number six national seed, UCLA will host the Super Regionals no matter who they play. When the Bruins get the Super Regionals underway on either Friday or Saturday, they will face either Cal St. Fullerton or Minnesota. Those two will do battle on Monday night, with the winner advancing to the Los Angeles Super Regional.