John Savage probably preferred to win on Friday night and save his own ace, Trevor Bauer for the finals at the College World Series. But alas, Savage had to trot Bauer out for the elimination game for both teams on Saturday.
Bauer mowed down the first batter, Jerome Pena, but was taken deep by Bryan Holaday the next batter. That was as close to struggling as Bauer would be all day.
Channeling the hurlers of the 1960's and 1970's, Bauer pitched a strong eight innings, delivering 135 pitches, and striking out 13 batters, to put the Bruins into the finals of the College World Series for the first time in their school history.
It wasn't just Bauer who made it tough for the Horned Frogs, it was the Bruin bats, who pounded out 15 hits, and jumped out to a 5-1 lead after the first frame, to take control early.
Things were so bad for the Horned Frogs early on, that Kyle Winkler, the TCU started, had his first conversation with the pitching coach after the second batter, and was chased a batter later, after Blair Dunlap smashed a three-run shot, knocking in Beau Amaral and Niko Gallego. The Bruins would take on two more runs. They had a chance to blow the game open more in the second, but miscues on the basepath, something that has been somewhat of an issue in the postseason, cost them more runs. Still, they were up 6-1 after two.
The Horned Frogs inched close, to 6-3, showing some chinks in Bauer's armor, but he'd settled down, not giving up a run in the next three innings. Meanwhile, the Bruins were adding insurance runs to aid Bauer's efforts.
Cody Regis knocked in Gallego in the sixth and then Dunlap would score on passed ball, upping the lead to 8-3. Then in the seventh, Dean Espy went deep to make it 9-3, and the Bruins used some shoddy fielding by TCU to add the 10th run.
In the top of the eighth, already having made 125 pitches, Savage sent out Bauer. It was a good decision. Bauer struck out the side, two of them looking.
In the ninth, Dan Klein, money all year out of the pen, slammed the door shut on the Horned Frogs, and clinched a spot in the final series for the Bruins.
So now UCLA faces South Carolina in the best-of-three championship series, that begins on Monday at 4:30 p.m. pacific time on ESPN, UCLA vs. USC, for the national title.
A win there would give UCLA a rare double. With UCLA softball winning the national title earlier this month, UCLA has a chance to become the first school in NCAA D-I history to win both the baseball and softball titles in the same year.
Softball has done it 11 times in it's history, but baseball has never done it.
Next week, history looks to be made in more ways than one for the Bruins.