Reporting from Omaha — Matt Purke wears black eyeglasses and his baseball cap sits tilted on his head, as those worn by many left-handed pitchers seem to do.
He's a bit quirky, too — another trait shared by lefties in baseball lore — and his Texas Christian teammates have nicknamed him " Harry Potter."
You could say he also has some other wizard-like qualities. Purke, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound freshman with a fastball that tops out at about 97 mph, has a record of 15-0 in 17 starts.
His next foe is UCLA on Friday.
Purke is scheduled to start the 1:30 p.m. PDT game for Texas Christian (53-13), which needs a win over the Bruins to avoid elimination and force a deciding game on Saturday. UCLA (50-14) needs just one more win to advance to the best-of-three final at the College World Series.
"We know we can beat good pitching," UCLA leadoff man Beau Amaral says. "We know our pitching staff is going to hold them if we put up a few runs. We're going to be right in there. We're confident going into the game."
Purke, a 2009 first-round draft pick who turned down a $4-million signing offer from the Texas Rangers, struck out seven and allowed four hits in TCU's 8-1 victory against Florida State in his first CWS outing.
He's the reason the dominant UCLA pitching staff is, for the first time this postseason, pegged by some observers as the underdog on Friday.
The Bruins are throwing Rob Rasmussen, whose 11-2 record and 2.73 earned-run average is best among UCLA's starters, even though he is No. 3 in the rotation.
UCLA coach John Savage is confident about the matchup.
"We're throwing a second-round pick," Savage said of Rasmussen, who was taken by the Florida Marlins earlier this month. "This guy is pretty good. He was the 73rd player picked in the country. Purke has had a tremendous year, but Rasmussen has also had a good year."
UCLA hopes facing the likes of Rasmussen, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer during practice helps prepare for Purke. The Bruins have surprised with their hitting in Omaha, scoring at least one run in 11 of the first 12 innings.
"We're used to facing good pitchers," UCLA's Niko Gallego said. "Any time you face those big guys, it's exciting. To be the best, you've got to beat the best. We know that Purke is a very good pitcher and we're excited to get out there and see what we can do against him."