Reporting from Omaha, Neb. — UCLA made a point to say this was more than just a matchup against Matt Purke, Texas Christian's standout pitcher.
Turns out, the Bruins were right.
The Horned Frogs received a strong effort from Purke, but three home runs and solid relief from Tyler Lockwood were equally important in their 6-2 victory Friday at the College World Series. The teams play Saturday at 11 a.m. PDT at Rosenblatt Stadium to determine which advances to the best-of-three championship series.
The Bruins (50-15) will pitch Trevor Bauer against Kyle Winkler or Paul Gerrish of TCU (54-13).
"We had a ton of ground-ball outs, and you've got to give Lockwood a ton of credit as well," UCLA Coach John Savage said. "He came out and threw the ball extremely well. It just seemed like we were swimming upstream all day."
Purke, a freshman lefthander, allowed three hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings, improving to 16-0. He left with a 3-1 lead behind TCU's ability early to hit Bruins starter Rob Rasmussen, who gave up six hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings.
After loading the bases in the first, Rasmussen walked Taylor Featherson to score a run. A run-scoring single by Jerome Pena in the second and Pena's fourth-inning solo homer made it 3-0.
"Quite honestly, I just didn't throw enough strikes," said Rasmussen, who fell to 11-3. "Obviously, those two walks in the first inning hurt. … From that point on, I didn't feel like I had it but just tried to keep our team in the game as much as possible."
The Bruins, who had defeated TCU on Monday, 6-3, refused to go quietly.
Right fielder Brett Krill had a run-scoring single to make it 3-1 in the fifth, and Cody Regis and Trevor Brown reached base in the seventh with one out to knock Purke from the game.
Lockwood came on to get Jeff Gelalich to hit into a fielder's choice for the second out. After Steve Rodriguez walked to load the bases, Bruins shortstop Niko Gallego drove in a run with an infield single.
Lockwood, who allowed just one hit in picking up the save, struck out Beau Amaral to avoid further damage.
"[Lockwood] pitching on fumes did a great job, especially getting the punch-out in the seventh against Amaral," TCU Coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "That was huge for us."
Taylor Featherston's two-run homer off reliever Garett Claypool put TCU ahead 5-2. Bryan Holaday added solo home run in the eighth for the Horned Frogs.
"It's a new ball game and we feel very, very confident about our team," Savage said. "We had a misstep and you've got to give a lot of credit to TCU. We'll get back after it and play Bruin baseball."
In Friday's second game at Rosenblatt Stadium, South Carolina stayed alive by defeating Clemson, 5-1. The teams will play Saturday at 4 p.m. PDT, with the winner advancing to the championship series against the winner of the UCLA-TCU game.