UCLA: Dave Serrano

Baseball team books trip to Omaha

June, 14, 2010
6/14/10
1:09
AM PT

UCLA Athletics Pitcher Rob Rasmussen helped the UCLA baseball team make reservations for the College World Series in Omaha, throwing a complete game two-hitter against Cal State Fullerton in the Los Angeles Super Regional finale.



Rob Rasmussen didn't seem flustered until he gloved a comebacker in the ninth frame, awkwardly running towards first before flinging the ball for the second out of the ninth inning.

The second-round selection in last week's Major League Baseball Draft was an out away from tossing his first-career complete game, an out away from sealing UCLA's first trip to the College World Series since 1997, an out away from getting past recent nemesis Cal State Fullerton.

A few minutes later, the 5-foot-11 junior left-hander was throwing his mitt 25 feet in the air, jumping up and down, losing the composure he had spent all night building before getting mobbed by teammates.

"This year I really turned a corner," Rasmussen said.

And now, thanks to Rasmussen's two-hit gem, the No. 6-seeded Bruins have turned the corner too -- except that their route leads East, to legendary Rosenblatt Stadium.

"We needed to do this as a program," UCLA head coach John Savage said following an 8-1 victory Sunday night. "Now it's on to Omaha."

At one point, aces Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer stretched in the bullpen, just in case Rasmussen encountered trouble. But there was no need for the two right-handers -- or any of the Bruins' mighty relievers -- with Rasmussen retiring 15 consecutive batters before issuing a leadoff walk in the ninth.

Rasmussen had given up a seeing-eye single to Fullerton leadoff batter Christian Colon in the first before Colon -- this year's fourth-overall pick -- came around to break a scoreless tie. All Rasmussen allowed after that was a hit and a walk.

"His stuff was good," Colon said. "He mixed his pitches well and he had that chip on his shoulder."

"I felt that he got better, actually," Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano said. "There was a small window of opportunity in the first four innings."

But every inning must have felt like an eternity as Rasmussen kept hanging zeroes, kept stirring the 1,967 in attendance, kept making what figures to be his final appearance at Jackie Robinson Stadium all the more memorable. He won his team-leading 11th game of the year, a feat that had last been accomplished by fellow lefty Jim Parque in -- you guessed it -- 1997.

And with the way Rasmussen was throwing, luck was the last thing UCLA needed. Yet, that's exactly what the Bruins got with two outs and two runners on in the third, when Fullerton center fielder Joey Siddons dropped a routine liner off the bat of Tyler Rahmatulla. The go-ahead runs would scamper home and Rasmussen would get all the support he needed.

"I didn't really ask [Giddons]," Serrano said regarding the dropped ball. "What I saw from 340 feet away, it looked like it had some top spin and made it tougher to catch. It was a big play in the game, but things happen."

UCLA's center fielder Beau Amaral, meanwhile, did more than enough to help Rasmussen, going 3 for 4 with three runs scored and three driven in -- the latter two coming on a blast to right that pushed UCLA's lead to 8-1 and sparked chants of "O-ma-ha, O-ma-ha!" in the eighth.

"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.

Baseball: Cal State Fullerton 4, UCLA 3

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
12:36
AM PT
Cal State Fullerton's Nick Ramirez kept going to first, throwing over there with his back against the wall, the Titans clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth. UCLA's Blair Dunlap, representing the winning run, kept retreating to the bag, perhaps getting a read on the left-hander Ramirez while teammate Beau Amaral stood on third hoping to tie the score.

No outs -- all the pressure on Ramirez to make a pitch to No. 3 hitter Tyler Rahmatulla with 2,077 fans on the edge of their seats in the opener of the Los Angeles Super Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Friday night.

Ramirez went to first again and again, Dunlap finally bit and took off for second but never made it there and Fullerton ended up with a 4-3 victory.

"It was a straight steal, a jab and go," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "We gambled and lost."

"I just had a feeling that they were going to try something there," Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano said.

One out, but all the pressure still on Ramirez with Amaral standing 90 feet from home and Rahmatulla, who had doubled twice in the game, zeroed in at the plate.

A few offspeed pitches and a defensive replacement later, Rahmatulla was walking back to the dugout with his head hanging. Two outs.

"My heart was jumping out of my jacket, I think," Serrano said.

And UCLA's heart was partly shattered, the No. 6 national seed still two wins away from Omaha and a loss from elimination.

"It's a tough loss, but our guys have bounced back all season," Savage said. "We're here for a reason. We believe in the program, so we're not going to change a whole lot."

The Bruins had their opportunities. UCLA loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh and seemed to be getting to Fullerton starter Noe Ramirez. Yet Serrano decided to stick with lanky right-hander from East Los Angeles.

"You go with mentality in those situations," Serrano said.

Noe Ramirez responded, striking out Steve Rodriguez and Amaral and getting Dunlap to line out to Christian Colon.

"My changeup felt great off my hand all night," said Noe Ramirez, who struck out 13 in seven innings.

Meanwhile, UCLA's starter Gerrit Cole left the game in the seventh after giving up four runs and five hits. The wheels didn't completely fall off in the Titans' three-run fourth, but the bolts began to loosen. Matt Grace and Erik Goeddel backed up Cole with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

UCLA finally cut the deficit to one when Noe Ramirez left in the eighth but failed to capitalize in the disastrous ninth.

"We're disappointed, but we're not down and we're not out," Savage said.

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