Reporting from Omaha — The fact that it worked means UCLA Coach John Savage can admit it was a gamble.
Savage decided to use No. 2 pitcher Trevor Bauer in the opening game of the College World Series against Florida. Bauer struck out 11 in seven innings Saturday in the Bruins' 11-3 victory.
Now, a program that entered without a CWS victory has to be feeling pretty confident with sophomore ace Gerrit Cole on the mound Monday against first-time participant Texas Christian.
"It could have backfired, I guess you could say," Savage said. "But we know we have a bunch of No. 1s [pitchers], so we really don't designate a 1, 2 or 3."
Savage said the move was tough because of the game's importance, but he felt better about the matchup between Bauer and the third-seeded Gators. Florida had breezed through the postseason, winning their five previous games by a combined score of 43-10.
Still, Savage went away from the norm.
"We've been very disciplined, I think, on the pitching side of it all season long," Savage said. "We kind of know our roles. We kind of went with a hunch, kind of went with the matchup … Trevor upheld his end of the deal."
Bauer, who normally starts the second game of a series, was unaffected by the change. He gave up six hits and three runs, setting the school's single-season record for strikeouts (152). It was the seventh time he struck out at least 10 this season.
"It's definitely tougher leading off, first-game jitters," Bauer said. "Obviously, playing in such a great venue here, and you kind of get a game under your belt and you feel more relaxed … For me, it was more of just another game."
The Bruins, who were 0-4 in the CWS before Saturday, are in prime position to advance to the championship series. Cole is 10-3 and was a first-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2008. Another one of his big league performances could make the path much easier.
If he can beat the Horned Frogs, UCLA would not have to play again until Friday. The remaining opponent in the bracket would then have to defeat the Bruins twice, with UCLA yet to throw left-hander Rob Rasmussen.
"First of all, I thought it was a great coaching decision to go with Bauer," Cole said. "But I don't think I'm going to put any more pressure on myself than I normally do and neither will my teammates. I'm just going to go pitch for pitch, just live in the moment and not look ahead."
In the CWS on Sunday, rain delayed the start of the South Carolina-Oklahoma game 4 hours 15 minutes, and play was halted in the middle of the sixth inning because of rain and lightning with the Sooners leading, 3-2.
The game between Arizona State and Clemson was postponed until Monday at 11 a.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.